Children of GIANT is a documentary film that unearths deeply wrought emotions in the small West Texas town of Marfa, before, during and after the month-long production of George Stevens' ...
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Children of GIANT is a documentary film that unearths deeply wrought emotions in the small West Texas town of Marfa, before, during and after the month-long production of George Stevens' 1956 feature film, Giant. Based on the controversial Edna Ferber novel of the same name, the film, Giant did not shy from strong social-issue themes experienced throughout post-WWII America. George Stevens, its producer and director, purposely gravitated to the drought-ridden community of Marfa for most all of the exterior scenes. Funded in part by Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB).Written by
Caterer Wally Cech holds up a Kodak Instamatic as the camera she used to take behind the scenes photos during the movie shoot. Giant was shot in 1955, but the first Instamatic camera was not introduced until 1963. See more »
Sixty years after the initial release of George Stevens' Giant, this documentary reveals the inner workings of the creation of the original novel, screenplay and filmization. A small Texas town (Marfa) was used for the production, with a full array of Hollywood cast and crew to engage in this on-location work for 45 days in 1955.
I was surprised to learn of the hostility Edna Ferber faced from local Texans over her revealing novel; likewise, the sensitive line Stevens drew in fashioning his film. With Studio Head Jack Warner himself trying to pressure the director to remove some key elements in the film, it is to Stevens credit that he held on to his vision and respectfully refused.
Also to Stevens' credit is his studio contract: he would work for free for the three years of film preparation, then be given a financial percentage of the film and full control. It was an offer Warner Bros. couldn't refuse and an ingenious stroke of good fortune for Stevens.
One surprising revelation of the documentary is that the school administration and teachers attempted to make Latino school children speak only English, going so far as to have a mock funeral wherein all Spanish texts were literally buried in the ground behind the schoolhouse. Likewise the segregated cemetery for Latinos which existed in 1955 still exists in 2015--with a barbed wire fence separating the other side reserved for Anglos.
No wonder the oil-rich Texan barons were roiled with both Ferber and Stevens for exposing their clandestine social culture for the world to see. Yet Stevens was careful not to incur a defamation law suit of characters still living when the film was released by maintaining it to be a work of fiction. Yet worldwide audiences recognized the social truths being exposed in this daring production.
The 86-minute documentary is both interesting and informative throughout, and is rich in candid film shots by cast and crew along with actual excerpts from the finished film. This is a worthwhile documentary of a still highly relevant social drama.
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