This morning it was announced by the Library of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board that my first film, 'Roger & Me', has been placed on the National Film Registry -- the official list of films that are, according to an act of Congress, to be preserved and protected for all time because of their "cultural and historical significance" to the art of cinema.
It is, to say the least, a huge honor that for me ranks right up there with the Oscar and the Palme d'Or at Cannes. The National Film Registry is a slightly rarefied list of movies in the history of cinema. Of the tens of thousands of films that have been made since the 1890s, only 600 are on the preservation list. Today, in addition to 'Roger & Me', the films that were announced selection to the preservation list include 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf', 'Mary Poppins', 'Pulp Fiction', 'Forbidden Planet', 'The Quiet Man', 'The Magnificent Seven' and 'Judgment at Nuremberg'.
These films, plus 'Roger & Me' now join 'Citizen Kane', 'The Graduate', 'Dr. Strangelove' and a host of other classics that make up the National Film Registry.
The news comes at just the right moment for 'Roger & Me'. The upcoming year, 2014, is the 25th anniversary of the film's debut. But last year I learned that there was not a single print of 'Roger & Me' in existence. Anywhere. I was stunned. I had received a call from the New York Film Festival asking if I knew where they could find a 35mm copy of the film. They were told there were no usable prints in North America -- all of them had been damaged or destroyed or had faded in color. How could the largest grossing documentary of all time in 1989 just have vanished? Poof. Gone. And if this could happen to 'Roger & Me', what kind of shape are other films -- especially documentaries -- in?
I called up the good people of Warner Bros. to help me fix the problem -- and they did. In the end ten new prints were made and are now being donated to archival vaults at UCLA, the Motion Picture Academy, the Museum of Modern Art and the George Eastman House.
But now, with the protection offered by the Library of Congress, 'Roger & Me' will be in good hands and around for a long time to come.
You should know that there is a serious film preservation crisis afoot and I've volunteered to help do something about it. I often hear of other films whose prints are all gone. I have personally paid to have new prints made for a number of films ('Hair' by Milos Forman, an old Roy Rogers classic, etc.) where not a single print exists. I have donated them to one of the above archival houses and I plan to keep doing this for other movies (Next up: Dalton Trumbo's 'Johnny Got His Gun').
As for 'Roger & Me', if you haven't seen it, check it out on iTunes or Amazon or (for a few hours for free) here. This movie, as most of you know, was my first chapter in a series of eight films that, in part, explore (often satirically) the crazy stupid thing we call "capitalism" -- a never-ending quest by the wealthy to take as much as they can, while leaving the crumbs for everyone else to fight over. Today, according to the polls, more young people say they favor the ideals of socialism over capitalism. I hope to God I played a small role in making that happen, and I look forward to the day when the rich are forced to share the wealth created by their employees. It will happen. In our lifetime.
I thank the Library of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board for this honor. And I encourage all of you to watch my film, a film that, sadly, is every bit as relevant today as when I made it 25 years ago.
I hope all of you are well and enjoying this holiday season. There is much work to do in 2014!