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  • What do The Sound of Music, Blazing Saddles, and E.T. have in common?

    What do The Sound of Music, Blazing Saddles, and E.T. have in common?

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  • Ted Turner's colorization of classic films became film preservation's tipping point.

    Ted Turner's colorization of classic films became film preservation's tipping point.

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  • Like the best movies, The Wizard of Oz takes reality and turns it into a mythology.

    Like the best movies, The Wizard of Oz takes reality and turns it into a mythology.

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  • Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch embodied both American ideals and fatherhood.

    Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch embodied both American ideals and fatherhood.

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  • Still from These Amazing Shadows

    Still from These Amazing Shadows

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  • Gene Wilder (as Jim, the Waco Kid) and Cleavon Little (as Bart) from Blazing Saddles (1974)

    Gene Wilder (as Jim, the Waco Kid) and Cleavon Little (as Bart) from Blazing Saddles (1974)

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  • Humphrey Bograt and Indrid Bergman on the set of Casablanca (1942)

    Humphrey Bograt and Indrid Bergman on the set of Casablanca (1942)

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  • A scene from West Side Story  (1961) directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise

    A scene from West Side Story (1961) directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise

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  • Tim Roth, star of the television series, Lie To Me, is interviewed at the Fox Studios in Los Angeles, California

    Tim Roth, star of the television series, Lie To Me, is interviewed at the Fox Studios in Los Angeles, California

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  • Rob Reiner, director of the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap (1984), is interviewed at the Writers Guild Theater in Los Angeles, California

    Rob Reiner, director of the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap (1984), is interviewed at the Writers Guild Theater in Los Angeles, California

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  • John Waters, director of Hairspray, is interviewed in Provincetown, Massachusetts for These Amazing Shadows

    John Waters, director of Hairspray, is interviewed in Provincetown, Massachusetts for These Amazing Shadows

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  • George Takei, actor and social activist, is interviewed in Los Angeles

    George Takei, actor and social activist, is interviewed in Los Angeles

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The Film

What do the films Casablanca, Blazing Saddles, and West Side Story have in common? Besides being popular, they have also been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and listed in The National Film Registry, a roll-call of American cinema treasures that reflects the diversity of film, and indeed, the American experience itself. The current list of 550 films includes selections from every genre — documentaries, home movies, Hollywood classics, avant-garde, newsreels, and silent films. American movies tell us so much about ourselves ... not just what we did, but what we thought, what we felt, what we imagined, what we aspired to ... and the lies we told ourselves.

These Amazing Shadows is a documentary rich with imagery, interweaving clips from America's most-beloved films (and many rarer treasures) with moving personal tales of how specific films have reflected our culture and changed lives. The film includes interviews with the Librarian of Congress (Dr. James Billington), famous directors (including Christopher Nolan, John Lasseter, Rob Reiner, John Singleton, Barbara Kopple, and John Waters), producers (Gale Anne Hurd and James Schamus), archivists, admired actors (Tim Roth, Debbie Reynolds, Peter Coyote), and members of the National Film Preservation Board.

These Amazing Shadows documents the passage of the National Film Preservation Act of 1988 and how this law set in motion a system to identify notable films. The Librarian of Congress, with input from the public and advice from the National Film Preservation Board, selects twenty-five films each year to add to the Registry. These Amazing Shadows goes behind the scenes to show the discussions, the debates and the drama that surround this selection process. As stated by James Billington, the Librarian of Congress: "American film really transformed the way in which a young nation learned to express itself, express its exuberance, expose its problems, and reflect its hopes. It wasn't simply a form of entertainment; it was living history — audio-visual history of the 20th century."

The Filmmakers

  1. Paul MarianoProducer/Director
  2. Kurt NortonProducer/Director
  3. christine o'malleyProducer