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Joris Ivens
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Joris Ivens

Joris Ivens (November 18, 1898 - June 28, 1989) was a Dutch documentary filmmaker and devout communist, and is generally respected as one of the foremost documentarists of the twentieth century.

Probably the best known of his early films is his 10-minute short Rain (Regen). Born into a wealthy family, Ivens went to work in his father's photo supply shop and from there developed an interest in film. He completed his first film at 13; in college he studied economics with the goal of continuing his father's business, but an interest in class issues distracted him from that path. Originally his work focused on technique--some argue that it had that focus at the cost of relevance, especially in Rain, filmed over 2 years and featuring impressive cinematography and a number of characters (but no information about them aside from what was visible) and in The Bridge (which showed a frank admiration of engineering and also featured a number of characters but did not give any information about them).

In 1933 Ivens made Misère au Borinage (Borinage), a moving and militant documentary about life in a coal mining region.

From 1936 to 1945 Ivens lived in the United States and made anti-fascist and other propaganda films (including the propaganda piece for the Spanish loyalists The Spanish Earth, narrated by Ernest Hemingway). With the rise of McCarthyism, Ivens (long a vocal communist) left the United States. In 1946, commissioned to make a Dutch film about Indonesian independence, Ivens resigned out of protest of what he considered ongoing imperialism. For about a decade Ivens lived in Eastern-Europe, working for several studio's there. His position concerning Indonesia and his taking sides for the Eastern Block in the Cold War annoyed the Dutch government. Over a period of many years, he was obliged to renew his passport every three or four months. According to later mythology however, he lost his passport for ten years, which is not true. From 1965 to 1970 he filmed life in North Vietnam during the war: 17e parallèle: La guerre du peuple (17th Parallel: Vietnam in War) and participated in the collective work Loin du Vietnam (Far from Vietnam).

From 1971 to 1977 he filmed How Yukong Moved the Mountain, a 763 minute documentary about the Cultural Revolution in China. Ivens was knighted by the Dutch government in 1989; he died on June 28 that same year. Shortly before his death he made the last of more than 40 films Une histoire de vent (A tale of the wind).

Note: This profile was written in or before 2006.

Joris Ivens Facts

BirthdayNovember 18, 1898
BirthplaceNijmegen, Netherlands
Date of deathJune 28, 1989 (Paris, France, age 90)

Selected Filmography

Not available.