films seen
average score
Alive and kicking


The Spanish Earth

1937 / 52m - USA
Documentary, War
The Spanish Earth poster

Early Joris Ivens documentary. The Spanish Earth is a rather one-sided account (one stop short of calling it a full-on propaganda film) that tackles the Spanish Civil War from the point of the Spanish government. Any familiarity with the subject is appreciated, because Ivens doesn't really bother to give too much context.

Read all

For most of the documentary, Ivens observes. He plants his camera down and shoots footage, without providing major insights. The sparse commentary comes from Ernest Hemingway, who blasts out platitudes with extreme gravitas. It's a very weird stylistic choice that didn't make much sense to me.

While I'm sure this documentary made sense in 1937, it has lost much of its value over time. The one-sided approach isn't very informative, the crude and brutish styling is rather off-putting and the fact that it only tells half a story (it was made during the Civil War) isn't working in its favor either.


Misère au Borinage
1934 / 36m - Belgium
Borinage poster

Old, silent and pro-socialist documentary about the plight of the miners in the Borinage, following their protests against the wasteful actions of the proletariat. They were willing to ruin their own stock, simply to drive up the price of the goods they wanted to sell. It's a classic rich vs poor story that shows some things haven't changed in the past century.

Read all

The stark black and white cinematography is nice, but also pretty convenient in making the miners' situation look extra dire and depressing. Not that they were to be envied, far from it, but it does give the documentary a certain hellish feel that doesn't really correspond with reality.

The documentary has no narration, no music either. It's an interesting window into Belgian history, but mostly for people who are naturally interested in that sort of thing. The story itself really isn't all that special and even though the film is only 30 minutes long, it struggled to hold my attention.

Know Your Enemy: Japan

1945 / 63m - USA
Documentary, War
Know Your Enemy: Japan poster