In a dictatorship, human hearts don't matter. Leo Hurwitz shows this frightening reality in his powerful film, Heart of Spain 1937. America is now in a fight similar to that of Spain's democratically elected republic against fascist General Francisco Franco. We fight against Trump's self-serving and cruel inhumanity in a deadly pandemic. And, we need a conduit of empathy similar to Dr. Norman Bethane's blood transfusions to soldiers in 1936 Spain. [Click here to watch Heart of Spain.] Spain’s heart was breaking. It was 1936 and the telephone woke Leo Hurwitz from a deep sleep. He heard a friend’s voice on the other...

Leo Hurwitz’s powerful 1948 WWII documentary, with its ironic title Strange Victory, is just as timely today as it was then because the film explores the inescapable question: “If we won, why do we look as if we lost? And, if Hitler died, why does his voice still pursue us through the spaces of America’s life?” It is a very strange victory - when we successfully fought the violent effects of discrimination and persecution in Germany but came home to open expressions of hate in our own country. That hate is still here, as virulently as before, in 2020. Why...

Seeing isn’t a simple thing. It often takes another person’s eyes to help us understand something in a new way. This is how Leo Hurwitz uses his eyes and camera in his The Art of Seeing series with its three films, Light And The City, Discovery In A Landscape, and This Island. In these films, made between 1968 and 1970 with fellow filmmaker and wife Peggy Lawson, Leo uses a form of empathic communication that he calls, “I will look with your eyes, you will see with mine.” Through this kind of seeing, Leo gives each of us a chance...

The Sun and Richard Lippold begins with Leo Hurwitz’s voice, reminiscing. “In the studio of Richard Lippold, where being a musician as well as a sculptor, he played Bach and Pachelbel for me, and where we talked for many hours, an idea came to me which is now this film.” This film, of course, is The Sun and Richard Lippold; a short film about the Sun, inspired by Richard Lippold, the artist, and his Sun. Lippold’s Sun began as a permanent installation in the Oriental Room at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, then moved to a larger...

This Piece is Written By Manfred Kirchheimer with Edits By Tom Hurwitz The first tape recorders were stolen from the Nazis. Enter John T. Mullin and Bing Crosby. Just after the Allies’ victory in Europe, Mullin was investigating a rumored secret German radio-wave ray for the US Army. He came up dry on the ray, but found two portable tape recorders and a bunch of recording tape, both of which were virtually unknown outside of Germany.  Bing Crosby (no dummy) put up the initial investment to bankroll the Ampex Corporation and it’s line of tape recorders. A revolution was in the...

The Young Fighter begins with a tough Brooklyn narrator’s voice. Tough as the boxing world is tough, tough as Ray Drake’s manager and trainer are tough; tough as the decision Ray Drake had to make. Would he become the Champ his manager and trainer were bent on making, or the family man he also wanted to be? And, why did it have to be an either/or choice? In the fighting world, with the necessity of financial backing for the slightest chance at success, who owns Ray Drake - him or THEM? These questions are the centerpiece of Leo Hurwitz’s The Young...

The Making of Native Land Leo Hurwitz’s Native Land is a 1942 expose of repressive forces against labor organizing. The film is based on the La Follette Civil Liberties Committee’s (1936-1941) 65 volumes of testimony to the Senate on their investigation. The investigation’s results couldn’t be more troubling. The Committee found that both Pinkerton and William J. Burns Detective Agencies sent spies to infiltrate labor unions and to report on members considered adversaries to the interests of business owners and corporations. What happened to those union members, who were only exercising their civil rights, is the subject of this film. Leo told...

Leo Hurwitz was a pioneer in the development of documentary film in America, but he wasn’t the only pioneer in the Hurwitz family. His older sisters Rosetta (Rose) and Marie were pioneers in bringing child psychoanalysis to the United States. They were among the first child analysts to train with Anna Freud in Vienna in the mid-1920s and, on return to New York City; they were the first child analysts in America. Yet, because of the controversy over lay analysts in this country, Marie and Rose’s significant role in the history of child analysis is largely unrecognized. This is my...

 “Leo Hurwitz's task in life: creating and practicing the documentary film tied intrinsically to the quest for human freedom, liberation, equality, and truth.” Tom Hurwitz, Leo’s son. In 1926, Leo went to Harvard. This was quite an achievement for the Jewish son of working class immigrants, yet remarkably in line with the family’s intrinsic belief in equality. Leo’s unusual intelligence and literary interests didn’t escape his sister Eleanor’s fiancé, Paul Anderson, in his own last year at Harvard. Leo had inherited his father, Solomon’s, passion for ideas and his mother, Eva’s, creativity. At New Utretch High School, he was editor-in-chief of the...

Leo Hurwitz (1909 – 1991), pioneer documentary filmmaker, was part of a small group who founded America’s documentary film and invented the social documentary form. According to his son, Tom Hurwitz, Leo’s films “exemplified a new way of making films about the real world, and about ideas that help us to understand it. He and his group saw these films as an antidote to the films of Hollywood that gave the audience dreams of escape.” Leo’s films spoke to various human rights concerns; problems he became aware of, early in his life, growing up in his socially conscious family. Leo...