question regarding early archives and Japanese film

ReelDrew at ReelDrew at
Sun Feb 7 17:52:25 EST 2010

I am right now working on the final draft of my forthcoming book, "The Last 
 Silent Picture Show: Silent Films on American Screens in the 1930s."   
Presently, I'm doing the revisions for a chapter on the archival movement and  
the Museum of Modern Art in the '30s.
Relating this to Japanese film, I point out that MOMA in the Iris Barry  
years (1935-1951) limited its collection of early cinema--and the programs of  
early films it featured--to the historical development of filmmaking in the 
 United States, Western Europe and the Soviet Union.  What I'd like  to 
find out from knowledgeable people here is does anyone know if my  information 
is accurate?  Has anyone here, for example, seen any  correspondence or 
other documents indicating that Iris Barry was planning a  program on the 
history of Japanese cinema (and those of India and China as well)  in say, 1939 
but that the outbreak of WWII halted this project?  Or am I  correct in my 
assumption that the standard view of the historical development of  cinema in 
those days, as set forth at MOMA, completely omitted the early  contributions 
of Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, including Japan?
I should point out that in the 1930s and 1940s, the Museum of Modern Art  
Film Library, contrary to Peter Decherney's tendentious assertions in 
"Hollywood  and the Culture Elite," was not a national film archive and, in fact, 
many  important areas in early American film history were neglected due to 
Iris  Barry's international focus.  Many at the time, in fact, felt it was her 
 preoccupation with the European art film that caused her to overlook so 
much of  the American cinema.  Or perhaps in fairness to her, she was trying 
to  balance America and Europe in the collection she built up.  However, what 
I  think was clearly left out of the film history programs established by 
Barry at  MOMA was the entire historical production of cinema in Asia, the 
Middle East and  Latin America during the first half of the 20th century.  I 
am not aware  that Barry made any effort in the 1930s and 1940s to obtain 
examples of  filmmaking from those countries beyond Hollywood and Europe.  If 
anyone  here, however, has information to the contrary, specifically, of 
course, with  respect to Japanese cinema, I would very much like to know.  I 
wish my  analysis to be as accurate as possible.
William M. Drew
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