These Amazing Shadows

Clip-heavy survey carries a lot of informational/promotional water for the National Film Registry.

Its eventual inclusion in the National Film Registry seems unlikely, but “These Amazing Shadows” carries a lot of informational/promotional water for the film body founded in 1989, which thus far has 550 films under its institutional wing. About 180 of them appear in Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton’s clip-heavy survey of protected American cinema, as do a parade of academics, filmmakers and critics, who will be seen and heard on VOD via Sundance Selects.

The question: Who are these subjects talking to? Anyone who needs to be told movies are important isn’t likely to watch a doc that celebrates important movies, and cinephiles will find much of the commentary elementary or defensive. And given the treasure trove that is the National Film Registry, it hardly needs defending, though perhaps its funding does: Given the movie’s earnest sales pitch for the Registry’s library — not pics like”Star Wars” and “The Godfather,” but rather the “Thriller” video, the Zapruder film, the obscure silents, minority films and the occasional eccentric selection — and the fact that arts funding is under renewed siege, one suspects the film was made for Congress.

These Amazing Shadows


  • Production: A Sundance Selects presentation of a Gravitas Docufilms production. Produced by Christine O'Malley, Paul Mariano, Kurt Norton. Executive producers, Suzanne Chapot, Audree Norton, Kenneth Norton. Directed by Paul Mariano, Kurt Norton. Written by Norton, Mariano, Doug Blush.
  • Crew: Camera (color/B&W, HD), Frazer Bradshaw; editors, Blush, Alex Calleros; music, Peter Golub. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Documentary Premieres), Jan. 23, 2011. Running time: 91 MIN.
  • With: With: Robert Rosen, Betsy McLane, Rob Reiner, James Schamus, Mick LaSalle, Julie Dash, Jay Carr, James H. Billington, Amy Heckerling, Steve James, Zooey Deschanel.