What people might post on YouTube or MySpace today, they did with film as Bryan, Mekas and Core documented ordinary people going about their daily lives in extraordinary circumstances.
Movies shot by the three were added to the National Film Registry on Wednesday, joining such boxoffice giants as Rocky, Halloween and Blazing Saddles on the 450-film roster.
In Siege Bryan filmed the citizens of Warsaw going about their daily lives amid the horrors of war as the Nazis battled to take over the city.
"You just sort of see people going one way and soldiers going the other," said Raye Farr, director of the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. It's just mind-boggling.
Bryan's name has largely slipped from the public mind, but he was an influential writer and documentary filmmaker in the 1930s and '40s, one of the first public figures to spotlight the menace of the Third Reich. In excerpts from a book about the movie published in Reader's Digest in 1940, he described the eerie nature of the siege.
"A strange aspect of life was that the siege of Warsaw was a commuter's war. The front lines were at the edge of the city," Bryan wrote. "Soldiers kept coming back from the front each day to share their food with their families, or at least to make sure their families were provided for. Losses among civilians were greater than among soldiers, and often it was not so much a question of a husband returning alive from battle as of a family remaining alive at home."
Raye said it was unclear exactly why Bryan was in Poland at that particular moment, other than having a nose for news.