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The Life of James Blue (1930-1980)

1930. Born in Tulsa.

1942. Arrives in Portland.

1948. Graduates Jefferson high school.

1953. Graduates University of Oregon.

1955. Enrolled in Master of Theater Arts Program at University of Oregon

1958. Graduates L’Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC) in Paris. Works on Madison Ave.

1960. James Dormeyer, an IDHEC classmate, recommends him for a job making short films for Les Studios Africa, a French company in wartime Algeria.

1962. In Algeria, Blue directs a French language feature, The Olive Trees of Justice. Though it isn’t accepted to Cannes, Blue brings it to the festival anyway, where it wins the Critics Prize. George Stevens, Jr. recruits Blue for the United States Information Agency (USIA).

1963. At USIA, Blue makes three short films about US development projects in Colombia and The March, documenting Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic speech during the March on Washington.

1965. Begins teaching at UCLA.

1965. Wins the first Ford Foundation grant ever given to a filmmaker. He undertakes an extensive series of interviews with international directors.

1966. Directs the prologue to George Roy Hill’s blockbuster epic, Hawaii.

1967. Made a “Few Notes on Our Food Problem” with Steve Larner and Gill Dennis

1968. Nominated for an Oscar for A Few Notes on Our Food Problem, his last USIA film.

1969. Serves on the founding faculty of American Film Institute.

1970. Begins teaching in Houston. With David MacDougall, co-directs Rice Media Center.

1972. Serves on the NEA’s first media funding panel. Votes in favor of a network of regional film centers, proposed by fellow Portlander Sheldon Renan. All four centers – in Oakland, Portland, Detroit and Chicago – exist today.

1977Co-Founded SWAMP with Gerald O’Grady, the Southwest Alternate Media Project. Begins making what he calls “complex urban documentaries,” inviting his subjects, the urban poor, to become his co-creators. He distributes video cameras and Super 8 cameras to his subjects, and incorporates their footage into two documentaries, Who Killed the Fourth Ward? and The Invisible City. During the last years of his life, he finishes The Invisible City while teaching at SUNY Buffalo and in London.

1980. Dies of a swift moving stomach cancer in Buffalo, at age 49.

(Compiled by Anne Richardson’s Notes on Blue at www.JamesBlueTribute.com)