WASHINGTON — Bambi, Forrest Gump and Hannibal Lecter have at least one thing in common: Their cinematic adventures were chosen by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the world’s largest archive of film, TV and sound recordings.
“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), a harrowing psychological thriller about the cannibalistic serial killer Lecter, and “Forrest Gump” (1994), starring Tom Hanks as the guileless hero who thinks “life is like a box of chocolates,” were critical and commercial successes that won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The animated Disney classic “Bambi” is among the most beloved movies ever made.
A majority of the 25 titles chosen this year for inclusion in the National Film Registry are lesser-known — including silent films, documentaries, avant-garde cinema and even home movies. The Library of Congress announced the selections Tuesday.
The registry began in 1989 under an act of Congress and now includes 575 films. Its aim is not to identify the best movies ever made but to preserve films with artistic, cultural or historical significance. Previous titles chosen range from “The Birth of a Nation” to “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”
“Forrest Gump” has its critical detractors but was praised for its technical achievements, including the seamless incorporation of the title character into historical footage.
More than 2,200 films were nominated for the registry this year. The National Film Preservation Board pares them down before Librarian of Congress James H. Billington makes the final selections.
“Each year, we do try to pick one of the titles that the public nominated the most, and ‘Forrest Gump’ was way up there on that list,” said Stephen Leggett, program coordinator for the National Film Preservation Board. “Everything on the list is subject to dissenting opinion.”
Staffers at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va., work to ensure that each title is preserved for future generations, packing away original negatives or unreleased prints into the facility’s massive vault and collaborating with other preservationists, movie studios and independent filmmakers.
“These films are selected because of their enduring significance to American culture,” Billington said in a statement. “Our film heritage must be protected because these cinematic treasures document our history and culture and reflect our hopes and dreams.”
Leggett said he was pleased by the inclusion of “The Negro Soldier,” a 1944 documentary produced by Frank Capra that was groundbreaking for its realistic and positive depiction of African-Americans. It became mandatory viewing for soldiers entering the army in the latter stages of the war and was shown in commercial theaters.
“It was kind of ironic because the official Army policy at the time was still segregation. You had a film which was implicitly if not explicitly promoting integration,” he said.
Films must be at least 10 years old to be considered for the registry.
The oldest movies selected this year are both from 1912. “The Cry of the Children” is about the pre-World War I child labor reform movement, and “A Cure for Pokeritis” stars John Bunny, regarded as the American film industry’s earliest comic superstar.
“A lot of people would argue that the humor is kind of dated,” Leggett said of Bunny’s films — mostly short domestic comedies in which he played a henpecked husband. “He really was a major figure at the time. It doesn’t help your reputation when people like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton come after you.”
Chaplin’s first feature, “The Kid” (1921), was also chosen for the registry.
It was a big year for actress Sally Field, who co-starred in “Forrest Gump.” ”Norma Rae” (1979), featuring her Oscar-winning performance as a single mother who fought to unionize a Southern textile mill, also made this year’s list.
Among the other titles chosen: “The Big Heat,” a 1953 film noir starring Glenn Ford; “The Lost Weekend,” Billy Wilder’s Oscar-winning alcoholism drama; “Porgy and Bess,” starring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge; “Stand and Deliver,” starring Edward James Olmos as an inspiring East Los Angeles math teacher; and John Ford’s epic 1924 Western “The Iron Horse.”
Among the lesser-known titles chosen this year, “A Computer Animated Hand” (1972) by Pixar Animation Studios co-founder Ed Catmull was one of the earliest examples of 3D computer-generated imagery. The one-minute film shows a hand turning, opening and closing.
Documentaries picked for the registry include “Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment,” which focuses on Gov. George Wallace’s attempt to prevent two African-American students from enrolling in the University of Alabama and the response of President John F. Kennedy. “Growing Up Female” from 1971 was one of the first films to document the women’s liberation movement.
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