The James and Richard Blue Foundation was founded to showcase James Blue’s innovative work and teachings, and inspire a new generation of filmmakers, students and teachers to further his legacy of participatory investigative media. The James and Richard Blue Foundation plans to bequeath his entire body of work to the University of Oregon Special Collections and Archives.
Blue Family launches nonprofit foundation and first James Blue Award to support filmmakers who exemplify Blue’s socially engaging, interactive methods for giving voice to voiceless communities around the world
Portland, Oregon (April, 2014)—Who was James Blue? Revolutionary and award-winning filmmaker, rebel, and change agent for social justice James Blue died in 1980 at 49 leaving behind a remarkable legacy. The intensely ambitious filmmaker, who graduated from Jefferson High School and University of Oregon, turned his back on a Hollywood career to focus on democratizing media production. He was fascinated by/ haunted by/conflicted about film as an exercise of power and his unconventional style of filmmaking (and film education) influenced an entire generation of filmmakers. Still, few people know of this rare national treasure. But thanks to the collaboration of the Blue family and the University of Oregon, James Blue’s own voice will now be heard and seen in perpetuity.
James Blue was a man of firsts:
- Oregon’s first Oscar-nominated filmmaker in 1968 (A Few Notes on Our Food Problem);
- America’s first Cannes Critics’ Prize winner in 1962 (Olive Trees of Justice);
- The first filmmaker ever to receive a Ford Foundation grant for his project interviewing leading international directors working with non-actors;
- First faculty recruited to the Center for Advanced Film Studies at American Film Institute;
- Founder of the documentary film programs at both Rice University and Center for Media Study at SUNY Buffalo;
- Founder the Southwest Alternative Media Project (SWAMP) in Houston.
- Member of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) media funding panel which launched the first network of regional film centers including Portland’s Northwest Film Center.
Few people know that it was Blue who directed The March (1964), the essential film of the Civil Rights Movement featuring Martin Luther King’s celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech. In 2008, “The March” was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry taking its place among the most important films ever made. Add to that, among some of Blue’s students while he was teaching at UCLA were rocker Jim Morrison (The Doors) and Francis Ford Coppola. You would think with such lofty credentials, James Blue would be a recognizable name in American film history, but as remarkable as his accomplishments are, his American obscurity is even more so.
So why do so few know about James Blue? Legally bound by one employer, the United States Information Agency (USIA) and the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act, which dictated that US propaganda films not be distributed in America, Blue’s films could not be shown in his home country. It didn’t help his notoriety in the U.S. that his early films were made in foreign languages and in foreign countries and not about subject matter germane to most Americans at the time. Blue’s work for the USIA included A Few Notes on Our Food Problem, which won an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Thirty more years would pass before the name James Blue would attach itself to his international reputation of revolutionary filmmaker in America.
Now, in order to preserve and share Blue’s complete body of work, Richard Blue, chairman of the James and Richard Blue Foundation will bequeath the James Blue Archive to the University of Oregon Library Special Collections and University Archives. The foundation also presents the James blue Award to the filmmaker who best personifies the humanist values of James Blue.
“The mission of the foundation is not only to preserve and share James’ complete body of work, but to support film educators, filmmakers, researchers and students whose values and activities advance his vision of participatory media,” said Richard Blue. “We want to remember James Blue as an extraordinary filmmaker, documentarian and influential educator. His life work has left a legacy of profound implications for social justice as he documented the hopes and dreams of people whose voices are rarely—if ever—heard by people in power. James had an innate belief that ‘democracy demanded that our public media be more diverse in giving access to a variety of new voices.’