Voices on Blue

An award-winning documentary filmmaker, James Blue was a truth-searcher and communicator, an aesthetician, master teacher and actor; a journalist, a poet, a film pioneer, a friend to many and loved by all who knew him. Blue was a generous spirit who gave himself without reservation to his colleagues, his subjects and his art. Here’s what they have to say about James Blue.

“What is it about you, James Blue? You had a zest, the joy of being and doing, and with it you had a deep connection to others, a sensing of what was hidden in them, along with a direct line to the immediacy of their wants and their actions. You knew that there was no isolation of self in self. The world was part of you.”Leo Hurwitz

“You were in search: the search for fullness in your work, the search for growing, the search for illumination of dark corners, the search against cliché and conformity, the search for love and truth.”Leo Hurwitz

“That ethic of participatory filmmaking which carries throughout James Blue’s career is probably the heart of where I think his legacy is meant to continue to build.”Richard Herskowitz, Cinema Pacific

“James Blue was Oregon’s first internationally known independent writer-director-producer. He marked the trail. James Ivory, Bill Plympton, and Gus Van Sant followed it.”Anne Richardson, Oregon writer, film historian/curator, Oregon Movies, A to Z

“James Blue inspired a generation of film students to search constantly for the truths that underlie conventional wisdom. He also found this process immensely exciting — an excitement that he communicated to those of us around him, students and colleagues alike. To work closely with James was to become as much involved with the subjects of cinema as with cinema itself.”David McDougall

“He was a superb filmmaker….And he was a superb teacher with his influence felt by a generation of students….If we can find the time, if we can avoid the trap which ensnared James Blue, it would be worthwhile to rescue from his interviews and ephemeral writing the book (or books) which are buried there. Let’s hope it can be done.”Colin Young

“While most documentary films intend to convince us of their veracity/validity, Jim’s work has the sense of probing, searching and questioning.”Paul Sharits

“He…communicated intensely, like someone who is inspired, like someone who is lonely, like a teacher, like someone who sees what is happening to the others and wants to give a helping hand.”Johan van der Keuken

“He brought a love of documentary and his own way of teaching it. He also brought a hope: the possibility of using film, video and television to create a link, a basis for greater understanding, between ordinary citizens and the institutions that influence their lives.”Lynn Corcoran

“His philosophy was quite simple: he wanted to see film become ‘a democratic art.’ James felt film should be as accessible as canvas and a paint brush…Super-8 he believed was the key to the film revolution. He could never quite accept the elitism of film and the notion that only those with money and big budgets could shoot them…”Janice Blue

“James was my dear friend in Paris when we both studied at the IDHEC. Later on when I got to know him better, I discovered his openness to explore everything he encountered, his wildly humorous hate-love of the American culture and his unique combination of biting criticism, naïveté, tolerance and despair. He seemed very much preoccupied by the impossibility to communicate and communicated intensely, like someone who is inspired, like someone who is lonely, like a teacher, like someone who sees what is happening to the others and wants to give a helping hand.”Johan van der Keuken

“He had great emotional intelligence….he familiarized me with the movie camera as a non-privileged tool, pen, brush, eye; working on (a film) with James probably taught me more about the inner sensitivity of the film image and montage than the formal courses at IDHEC.”Johan van der Keuken

“He particularly cared about disempowered people – people who were in crisis situations, people who were basically victims of oppression….He wanted them to be able to document their own lives. He was kind of a pied piper, an evangelical about filmmaking…”—Richard Herskowitz

“I knew him as Blue the journalist…the major writer contributor to the first 25 issues of Film Comment, which I then edited. But Blue was not a writer in the formal sense of a daily reporter…rather Blue was a superb interviewer of film directors and a collector of documentation. He was a commentator and an essayist. And for me he was a catalyst provocateur without whom Film Comment could not have found its thrust and purpose.”Gordon Hitchens

“A documentary, then, is only the filmmakers’ perception of the thing, removed and reworked, crafted within cinema’s methodologies. It is, we hope, an honest documentary. But it’s not infallible. It’s not the final truth…. Blue taught and lived the idea, that recognition, that responsibility. Fiction films are fictional, and documentary films are, well, nonfiction. But not TRUTH.”Gordon Hitchens

“Jim Blue, childhood actor, Hollywood director, USIA film documentarian, feature filmmaker, as well as a widely respected teacher and administrator–Who would imagine that such a man would be the advocate and supporter of the Avante-garde cinema, and who would imagine that the fruition of his very considerable energies and talents would be via Super-8 single system sound technology as a pioneer of the truly personal documentary.”Paul Sharits

“The way Goddard said it to me–and he said it many times-was that when you start with reality you have to have fiction; and when you start with fiction you have to have reality… I firmly believe that.” —James Blue’s last interview, January 1980–Anthony Bannon, “An Interview with James Blue” Afterimage 8 (October 1980)

“In April, 1980 Jean Pelrgri told me that both he and James Blue transmitted fact into fiction in Les Oliviers de la Justice.”Gerald O’Grady

“The film ended on a negative note and some people were really upset about that. But it ended with what we had discovered: that no one was prepared to do anything about the problem of the deterioration of the Fourth Ward and the possible displacement of its residents.”Ed Hugetz, “The Houston Legacy,” Houston Breakthrough July/August 1980