[Marxism] The Prairie Trilogy | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 27 10:55:46 MDT 2018

In March 2017, I reviewed Yale Strom’s documentary on Eugene V. Debs for 
CounterPunch, a work that looked at Red states when they were really 
Red. I wrote: “Indeed, the IWW and the SP reached the most oppressed 
members of the working class (fruit pickers, longshoremen, miners, 
lumberjacks) in the boondocks. Oklahoma, a state most liberals would 
consider particularly retrograde, was fertile territory for the radical 
left at the turn of the 20th century.” For those who missed Yale’s 
documentary at the festival last year or at its brief theater run in 
April of this year, the good news is that it is available now from iTunes.

And equally good news is the arrival of the Prairie Trilogy at the 
Metrograph Theater on Friday, July 27th. The trilogy consists of three 
documentaries made in 1978 by John Hanson and Rob Nilsson about the 
radical movement in North Dakota during the heyday of the IWW, the 
Socialist Party, and the Nonpartisan League (NPL). Since the radical 
movement in North Dakota in the early 1900s was largely made up of 
homesteaders, the focus is on the Nonpartisan League, a farmer’s 
movement motivated by the same grievances that fueled the Populist Party 
in the south.

Hanson and Nilsson also made a narrative film titled “Northern Lights” 
around the same time that depicts the formation of the NPL. It received 
the Caméra d’Or prize at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival for best first 
feature film and is probably worth tracking down based on the stunning 
Prairie Trilogy. Nilsson has his own credit for a documentary titled 
“What Happened Here” that can be seen on Fandor. SF Weekly described it 
as “little more than an intellectual crush on Leon Trotsky” so that 
should be recommendation enough. This is the sort of work you might 
expect from founding members of Cine Manifest, a collective that came 
together in 1972 as a political group making films instead of artists 
making political films. Their roots were in Karl Marx and Wilhelm Reich, 
and unabashedly so.

full: https://louisproyect.org/2018/07/27/the-prairie-trilogy/

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