USA, 1964 (MIFF 1966, Programme 44)
Director: Harold Mayer
The Inheritance is one of the most successful of all compilation films. Most of its newsreel footage is unfamiliar, and Harold Mayer has married this rare material with old stills and specially shot linking footage into a passionate story of the immigrants who flocked to "Golden America", and what they found on their arrival.
The result must be the first authentic history of America from the viewpoint of its working people. It begins in the customs sheds in the early 1900s, and follows the immigrants into the sweatshops of the Lower East Side, into the coal mines and weaving mills where children not yet in their teens were employed. It shows how the first unions sprang from their bitter disillusionment and the film traces the history of these people against the background of World War I, the Twenties, the Depression, the Roosevelt era and the present day struggles for civil rights.
Few social documentaries have the vigour and excitement of The Inheritance. Apart from the brilliant editing, much of the impact is due to Mayer's use of the music and songs of the period, while the workers' own comments are even more vivid than the graphic narration by Robert Ryan.
Prize, Mannheim Festival: Golden Lion, Florence Festival.