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Preservation Projects
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Maurice Bailen’s The City (ca. 1961) and Confrontation (ca. 1968)

In 2021, The National Film Preservation Foundation awarded CFA a grant to photochemically preserve two films from the Maurice Bailen CollectionThe City (ca. 1961) and Confrontation (ca. 1968). Both films are original 16mm work prints, and no other copies are known to exist. Maurice Bailen (1902-1980) was a Chicago-based filmmaker who is well-regarded and yet his filmic output is largely underrepresented; he remains most known for his film The Great Depression (ca. 1934), made with the Chicago chapter of the Workers Film and Photo League (an organization of filmmakers, photographers, writers, and projectionists that operated during the 1930s). The League’s members were committed to the use of film and photography to advocate for social change, and The Great Depression was produced under that group’s auspices. It is widely believed to be one of the few films produced by the Workers Film and Photo League to have survived. Bailen’s filmography – at least, what we know of it – was devoted to capturing pivotal social movements in American history through a uniquely experimental aesthetic that was part documentary, part satire and political commentary.

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Both The City and Confrontation are not as well known as The Great Depression, but they are equally compelling representations of Bailen’s unique approach to cinema, and the ways in which he evolved as a filmmaker later in life. Both are silent, and rely heavily on a series of quickly edited montage sequences. Confrontation offers prescient commentary regarding the country’s stark racial divisions, governmental corruption under Nixon, and rampant consumerism, amongst other issues:

The City takes a slightly different approach,  providing an intimate look at the citizens of Chicago while also adding a few fictional flourishes towards the end. The film combines tongue-in-cheek footage of street advertisements, movie theaters, and other signifiers of city life, with scenes depicting the daily goings on of Chicagoans: