The World Today:

Sunnyside: the Second Battle of Long Island, Black Legion

The World Today was inspired by a new form of newsreel. The March of Time, produced by Henry Luce’s Time, Inc. in 1935, did away with the often frivolous and superficial fare of previous newsreels to produce a more serious product in the form of short features. Covering news and culture, narrated by a stentorian voice, and importantly for NYKino (the group of New York documentary filmmakers that broke away from the Workers Film and Photo League in 1935), merging actuality and reenacted footage. The cruder cinematographic experiments in this short led to more refined work in later films, especially the Klan sequence in Native Land.

Although the members of the NYKino group were critical of the centrist politics of The March of Time, and its wooden acting and unimaginative editing, they did appreciate the basic conception – a short-form documentary, sprung from using only footage shot at the time of the story, and with a broader focus and stylistic quality. Setting out to create a more real and more radical version of this expanded news format, they produced only two segments of The World TodaySunnyside: the Second Battle of Long Island, on tenant resistance to eviction in a working-class residential area in Queens; and Black Legion on the Michigan Black Legion and its murder of a WPA worker. Both made significant use of reenactment by professional and amateur actors and led to more sophisticated uses of the technique in later films like People of the Cumberland, and Native Land.

Black Legion video courtesy of Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1894-1941, British Film Institute National Archive, and Filmmakers Showcase.





6 minutes



SeeHide Full Credits

Production, NYKino

Cinematography, Willard Van Dyke and Ralph Steiner 

Actors direction. Mike Gordon

Writer, Ben Maddow

Other filmmakers, Irving Lerner, Sidney Meyers, Lionel Berman, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Joris Ivens

Advisers, Leo Hurwitz, Paul Strand