Academic Films for the Classroom

A History


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About the Book

Exploring a realm of film often dismissed as campy or contrived, this book traces the history of classroom educational films from the silent era through the 1980s, when film finally began to lose ground to video-based and digital media. It profiles 35 individual academic filmmakers who played a role in bringing these roughly 100,000 16mm films to classrooms across North America, paying particular attention to auteur John Barnes and his largely neglected body of work. Other topics include the production companies contributing to the growth and development of the academic film genre; the complex history of post-Sputnik, federally-funded educational initiatives which influenced the growth of the academic film genre; and the denouement of the genre in classrooms and its resurgence on the Internet.

About the Author(s)

Geoff Alexander is the author of multiple books on cinema and popular culture. He is the founder and director of the Academic Film Archive of North America in San Jose, California.

Bibliographic Details

Geoff Alexander

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 244
Bibliographic Info: 76 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-5870-7
eISBN: 978-0-7864-6000-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Foreword by Rick Prelinger      1
Preface      3
List of Abbreviations      11

1. The Formative Years of Educational Film: 1900–1960      13
2. A Cold War Funds a Hot Medium: The Progressive Era, 1961–1985      38
3. Writing a New Cookbook: How Academic Films Were Funded, Made, Bought, and Sold in the Progressive Era      47
4. The Companies That Made the Films and the People Behind Them      62
5. Immortal Longings: The Life and Films of John Barnes      139
6. Profiles of 34 Significant Academic Filmmakers      157
7. Final Takes: The Denouement of the Academic Film in Classrooms and Its Resurgence on the Internet      194

Appendix A: 36 Films in This Book Currently Available for Free Viewing Online      201
Appendix B: Milestones in Academic Film      204
Appendix C: Requiem      206
Chapter Notes      209
Bibliography      219
Index      223

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Alexander’s book is a highly readable paean to the men and women behind these academic films…Alexander’s compelling narrative and anecdotal style make it hard to put the book down”—The Moving Image.