Library of Congress Announces the 25 Films Selected for the 2016 National Film Registry ('Paris Is Burning,' 'Putney Swope,' More)
Photo Credit: PUTNEY SWOPE

Library of Congress Announces the 25 Films Selected for the 2016 National Film Registry ('Paris Is Burning,' 'Putney Swope,' More)


Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced today the annual selection of 25 motion pictures that have been inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress because of their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance.

“Motion pictures document our history and culture and serve as a mirror of our collective experiences,” said Hayden. “The National Film Registry embraces the richness and diversity of film as an art form and celebrates the people who create the magic of cinema.”

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names to the National Film Registry 25 motion pictures that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. The films must be at least 10 years old. The Librarian makes the annual registry selections after conferring with the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) and a cadre of Library specialists. Thousands of public nominations are also considered.

Spanning the period 1903 to 1998, the films named to this year’s registry include Hollywood blockbusters, documentaries, silent movies, animation, shorts, independent and experimental motion pictures. The 2016 selections bring the number of films in the registry to 700, which is a small fraction of the Library’s vast moving-image collection of 1.3 million items.

Among this year’s selections, given this blog’s specific interests are:




— “Blackboard Jungle” (1955) which featured one of Sidney Poitier’s earliest film roles. An adaptation of the controversial novel by Evan Hunter about an inner-city schoolteacher (played in the film by Glenn Ford) tackling juvenile delinquency and the lamentable state of public education.

— “Paris Is Burning” (1990) which explores the complex subculture of fashion shows and vogue dance competitions among black and Hispanic gay men, drag queens and transgender women in Manhattan, tackling notions of wealth and beauty, as well as racism and gender orientation.

— “Putney Swope” (1969), writer-director Robert Downey Sr.’s satire of Madison Avenue and the black power movement, and a cult classic about an ad agency takeover by black radicals.

— Solomon Sir Jones films (1924-28), which Sergio previously discussed on this blog, calling them the most extensive film records we have of Southern and urban black life and culture at the time of rapid social and cultural change for African Americans during the 1920s, the very beginning of the Great Migration, which transformed not only black people as a whole, but America itself. Solomon Sir Jones was a Baptist minister and businessman who also had an important career as an accomplished amateur filmmaker. Jones was born in Tennessee to former slaves and grew up in the South before moving to Oklahoma in 1889. Yale University’s collection of Solomon Sir Jones films consists of 29 silent black-and-white films documenting African American communities in Oklahoma from 1924 to 1928. They contain 355 minutes of footage shot with then-new 16-mm cameras. The films document a rich tapestry of everyday life: funerals, sporting events, schools, parades, businesses, Masonic meetings, river baptisms, families at home, African-American oil barons and their wells, black colleges, Juneteenth celebrations and a transcontinental footrace. Jones also documented his travels. The Smithsonian also has nine reels of film, comprising approximately two hours of footage. The films have been preserved by Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

— “Suzanne, Suzanne” (1982), an insightful 30-minute documentary about a black middle class family in crisis; specifically, it’s a profile of a young black woman named Suzanne Browning, as she confronts a legacy of physical abuse and its role in her descent into substance abuse. The film was conceived by Browning’s aunt, Camille Billops, as a sort of cinematic drug intervention. Family remembrances revealed the truth behind the addiction. Armed with the key to her own self-destructive behavior, Suzanne struggles to understand her father’s brutality and her mother’s passive complicity. After years of silence, Suzanne and her mother are finally able to share their painful experiences with each other in a moving moment of truth.

The full list of 25 films selected for the 2016 National Film Registry follow below:





“Atomic Cafe” (1982)

“Ball of Fire” (1941)

“The Beau Brummels” (1928)

“The Birds” (1963)

“Blackboard Jungle” (1955)

“The Breakfast Club” (1985)

“The Decline of Western Civilization” (1981)

“East of Eden” (1955)

“Funny Girl” (1968)

“Life of an American Fireman” (1903)

“The Lion King” (1994)

“Lost Horizon” (1937)

“Musketeers of Pig Alley” (1912)

“Paris Is Burning” (1990)

“Point Blank” (1967)

“The Princess Bride” (1987)

“Putney Swope” (1969)

“Rushmore” (1998)

Solomon Sir Jones films (1924-28)

“Steamboat Bill, Jr.” (1928)

“Suzanne, Suzanne” (1982)

“Thelma & Louise” (1991)

“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1916)

“A Walk in the Sun” (1945)

“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988)

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