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Cast
| News | Notes | Pictures | My Summary | My Review

Cast

Job Person
Narrator Don Hollenbeck
SIU secretary treasurer Paul Hall
Sefarer Paul
Sefarer George
Sefarer Benny

Directed and photographed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Will Chasan
Produced by Lester Cooper

News

A newly restored version! Strange that anyone would consider it some kind of classic when at best it is just a curiosity

NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Modern Art presents To Save and Project: The Seventh MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation, its annual festival of preserved and restored films from international film archives and studios around the world, from October 24 through November 16, 2009. Spanning more than 75 years of film history, from 1921 to 2000, the festival comprises over 25 films, virtually all of them having their New York premieres, and some shown in versions never before seen in the United States. To Save and Project is organized by Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator; Anne Morra, Assistant Curator; and Katie Trainor, Film Collections Manager; all of the Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.
    MoMA presents its new restoration of Stanley Kubrick’s documentary The Seafarers (1953), pairing it with Jean Epstein’s sublime poem of Brittany and the sea, Mor vran (1930), which Henri Langois called “one of the most beautiful documentaries in the history of French cinema.” The Museum’s tradition of partnering with New York Women in Film and Television continues with the New York premieres of short films by Chicago amateur filmmaker Margaret Conneely from the late 1950s to early 1960s, and the 1926 circus melodrama Christine of the Big Tops, written by the Academy-Award-winning Hollywood screenwriter Sonya Levien.

 

Notes

Pictures

Kubrick's screen credit

My Summary

    "This is a story simple, but dramatic. A story about the men who crew our ships - The Seafarers. Every seafarer will recognize in what follows something of himself. Familiar scenes, the faces of the men who share his calling, his way of life and maybe something more. Call it a dream fulfilled." So begins the narration over shots of ships and cargo unloading with typical Hollywood background music playing. Don Hollenbeck is the narrator. He is sitting behind a desk in an office and reads a piece Joseph Conrad wrote about the sea, "The true peace of god begins at any spot a thousand miles from land." He then reads another piece about the men of the sea. He gets up and walks around to the front of the desk and sits on it.  Then he tells us what the 30 minute film is going to be about. It is wonder and the glory of the SIU - Seafarers International Union. 
    He then narrates the rest of the film which is a propaganda piece showing how wonderful the union is in every aspect. In every major port in North America - US and Canada is an HQ for the SIU. Then they show the Atlantic & Gulf district HQ. We are giving a glimpse into the hiring hall. Men line up for jobs on ships going almost anywhere in the world. This is the right and duty of every seafarer. Courage and tradition have built the SIU.  Men coming of ships always have a place to go now. The HQs are staffed by experts in the field. Financial statements are posted every week as well as a newspaper send to men on ships all over the world.
    An SIU cafeteria must be a home away from home. Though it is open to the public, it is mostly for the convenience of the seafarer. There is lots of space and inexpensive food. Another convenient and welcome site is the barber shop complete with nudie calendar. The Sea Chest is the supply store which offers all kinds of good, right down to a shoe shine. It also handles deliveries and refits clothes. The Port of Call is the bar which is a good place to relax and meet up with friends.
    The center of it all though is the hiring hall. Jobs are given not as a favor, but a right in the order which they apply for them. When a man registers for a berth he gets a card stamped with the date and his personal info which is posted. Then the men all gather and wait. When two or more throw their cards in for the same job the man with the lower date wins it and all can check the cards. A man can pass up a berth without losing his place at the top of the list if he wants to wait for a better one. A man calls out how many deckmates are needed for a job from April 24th on and continues until they are filled.
    A seafarer doesn't have to kill time at SIU HQ while waiting for a job. He can enjoy it by shooting pool, shooting the breeze, writing a letter, reading a book, playing cards or table shuffleboard, or by visiting the seafarer museum with all art only by seafarers. For those on shore for a while there is an SIU school. The teacher asks what a union means to the class. George says protection, security and the boss can't shove you around. Benny says take home pay and overtime helps bring home the groceries. Paul says other guys do things together and he wants to be a part of it.
    Other services include Welfare, plus Beefs & Dues. Many are offered and are financed by SIU contracts so it doesn't cost them anything. It is security - by working together for a common interest. A man is seen going in and getting some money. The maternity benefit is $200 and a worker is seen at a house of a family with a newborn gives them the money and a $25 bond for the kid. Also college bonds for scholarships are available, vacation pay for every 90 days with no red tape. It only takes five minutes to transact.
    SIU exists to serve members in any way they can wherever they are. Every hospitalized seafarer gets a visit once a week from a representative who fulfills personal requests. A man is shown giving them things, plus $15 a week for benefits. It goes on for as long as they are hospitalized even if it is years. For disabled vets they get $25 a week.
    Of one SIU's victories in court the senate said it was amazing that they could win such a lawyer attack. The Log headlines show great news with pay and benefits increased. The best union paper is airmailed around the world. Facts includes that lines are up from 8 to 84, assets from $100,000 to $3 million, benefits in the millions. Wage increases tripled from 1939 to 1953. The best contracts in the maritime industry are kept up be representatives who board every incoming ship to iron everything out. It assures every seafarer they will be paid in full on the ship. They go to the members not waiting for the members to come to them.
    Every man knows his rights are fully protected. This explains why SIU organizers are given welcome by non union groups. Everything is democratic, every officer is elected and you aren't eligible unless you've spent three years at sea. All policies are decided by majority vote and discussion. Meetings are held. Any seafarer can nominate himself for any committee. A large meeting is now in session. Anyone can speak out on any issue. You can vote on any issue.
    Paul Hall is the secretary treasurer of the Atlantic & Gulf district. He address the crowd. He says they have contacted a large company that is unorganized and they are going to vote for the SIU. They are the most fair union of all. They are the highest paid and have the most benefits. They are large, but don't abuse it. It means much to them - a higher standard of living and a position of respect in the community. A man is shown leaving his family to go back to sea.
    Today every man goes up the gangplank secure thanks to the SIU. Dignity, security and a better way of life for their families - this is the story of the SIU.

My Review

    This was Kubrick's first color film and was lost for over forty years mainly because he considered himself a hired hand on the film and never mentioned to anyone. He didn't feel like it was his vision and it wasn't until decades later when someone came across it and found his name on it that word got out. There could be other films like this by Kubrick just waiting to be discovered.
    Of course this is a must see for all Kubrick fans because it is a Kubrick film. Since it is a short documentary it isn't a regular film where you can see Kubrick's vision stamped all over it. That said, it is well shot and holds your interest.
    Who knew there was such a huge union of seafarers back then? After watching it you'll want to join up with a crew and ship off! This piece makes it look like these guys have the greatest job in the world. Tons of benefits like a vacation for every 90 days worked, $200 for the birth of a child (remember this is 1953 money) job security, the choice of jobs, a place to hang your hat, hospital coverage, a newspaper and on and on. Long live the SIU!
    If you didn't tell someone it was a Kubrick film they would never know it and instead would ask you why you were watching it? Tell them you sent away for a training tape to be a seafarer!
    The SIU is still going strong today and is fully modern with their own website. The only person mentioned by name in the film was Paul Hall the 2nd president of the union. He became a much beloved figure who died in 1980. The major SIU center is now named after him. Otherwise some things never change. The Seafarers Log newspaper is still being published just like it was when they made the film.
    Of course they don't go into what it is like at sea. It sounds like you go away on a boat somewhere for three months, then come home, get a weeks vacation or so and start again. That would be the complete picture - to show how tough the jobs are.
    If someone tells you there is nothing to this film or it isn't worth watching is just plain wrong. The point is to get you interested in becoming a seafarer and it succeeds on every level. It is not only of historic interest, but educational as well. There are much worse ways to spend a half hour. I wonder how many people saw it when it first came out and decided to sign up.

Rating: 7/10

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