There is no book about James Blue. Most of what I have learned about him comes from his films, his print interviews, and from people who knew him.
Here’s where I was in October 2012:
James Blue (1930-1980) grew up in Portland. He studied speech and theater at University of Oregon, graduating in 1953. After some years of military service, he entered film school in Paris where he was influenced by Jean Rouch. (Anne’s note: now I am not sure this is true – not sure if he studied with Rouch or not) Although he first distinguished himself by winning the Critics Prize at Cannes for The Olive Trees Of Justice, a feature length narrative film, he spent the rest of his life making socially engaged documentaries.
Blue was a man of firsts. First Oregon director to go to Cannes, and the first to receive an Oscar nomination. First person ever to receive Ford Foundation funding for a film project. He helped start the Center for Advanced Film Studies at American Film Institute. The documentary programs at Rice University and at the Center for Media Study in Buffalo were both established by him. He served on the 1972 NEA media funding panel which launched the first network of regional film centers, as proposed by Sheldon Renan. Northwest Film Center is the result of that NEA initiative.
Two years later, I see how much this thumbnail portrait leaves out. Who was this man?
All personal accounts are in agreement that there was very little separation between Blue’s professional life and his personal life. His friends became his colleagues. His obsessions became his films. Reading a fuller list of his accomplishments, you begin to understand that every minute of his day was involved in some kind of work, but work that he loved. He held down two parallel careers, as a filmmaker and as a film educator, and excelled in both.
By writing in more depth about each of his films, I hope to discover exactly what I think about this mysterious, forgotten, and influential American filmmaker from my hometown.
Who was James Blue? What impact did he have?
Gentlemen, start your engines.
Notes On James Blue is a blog kept by Anne Richardson, of Oregon Movies, A to Z, to cover the 2014 James Blue Tribute. The six month long Tribute celebrates the bequest of James Blue’s films to the University of Oregon by the James Blue Alliance, a 501 c3 non profit organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of filmmaker and film educator James Blue.
Notes On James Blue is supported by the James Blue Alliance. All thoughts, opinions and errors, however, belong to Anne Richardson, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Alliance.