"I was often asked, why hadn't we gone to the other side, too, and make an objective film? My only answer was that a documentary film maker has to have an opinion on such vital issues as fascism or anti-fascism-he has to have feelings about these issues, if his work is to have any dramatic or emotional or art value
- Joris Ivens
on 'Spanish Earth' (1937)
(born George Ivens)
Dutch director, specialized in documentaries, was born in Nijmegen (1898). As
a kid he comes in contact with photography: his father owns a photoshop. At age
thirteen, he directs his first movie 'De Wigwam
', starring most of his family
He finishes college in Rotterdam but (attracted to photography) he studies
photographic techniques in Berlin (1921-24), where he first tastes the social unrest and
the start of the avant-garde
Returning in Holland Ivens, produces his first film 'De Brug' (The Bridge
) (1928), a film
which attracts international attention and is marked by critics as an avant-garde masterpiece.
Shortly after he makes 'Rain' (a film with music by Hanns Eisler
) and the first Dutch
artistic sound film 'Phillips Radio'.
After his first controversial social movies at the time of the Depression
, he decides to
leave Holland for Russia where he finishes 'Song of Heroes' (also referred to as "Komosomol
") in 1932,
together with Hanns Eisler
In 1936 he settles in America where he is asked to make a movie about the Spanish Civil War
. The film,
Spanish Earth (1937) recorded in Spain
, is still one of his masterworks. Sober commentary by
and powerful photography shows Ivens partiality against Franco's facisme.
A year later he films another anti-fascist film (music: Eisler): 'The 400 millions', showcasing
the Chinese-Japanese war
During the second world war
he collaborates with the US War Department and films several
After the war, the Dutch authorities ask him to make a movie about the liberation of the
Dutch East Indies. He refuses and resigns, and makes a filmic pamphlet against the re-colonization of
Indonesia. The Dutch government, annoyed by the pamphlet, immediately declares him persona non grata
. Until 1957
he continues to work in East Germany, making films mainly characterized as Communistic propaganda.
In 1957 he returns to Western Europe
, Paris and from there he (again) travels the world to
film the rise of the socialistic South America
n countries (including a movie about Salvador
), the Vietnam war and the Cultural Revolution
In 1967 he directs 'Le 17éme paralléle' with Marceline Loridan
, and continues to work together
with her until his dead. Between 1967 and 1976 Ivens vigorously films anti-american movies
In 1976 he is awarded the honorary doctorate of the Royal College of Art in London,
in 1984 he is made Commander of the "Legion d'Honeur" (presented by president Mitterand).
A year after he is officially rehabilitated in The Netherlands, when the Minister of Culture, Mr. Brinkman, referring to Ivens'
pro-Indonesian pamphlet, states that "history proved you're right more than that of your adversaries then".
In 1988 Ivens (together with Loridan) films his last movie 'Une histoire de vent
', documenting his own turbulent life
as a director in the 20th century.
At the end of his life, Ivens took some distance of belief in communism
. "I used to say that communism was not a faith, but there is much of it in it.
I sticked too long to my utopias, until I saw that History is not developing
according to a book that was written at the beginning of this century."
Ivens, merely a victim of a fast changing political world, which he witnessed,
reflected and filmed, died in 1989, Paris, France.