In December, the Library of Congress accepted 25 films into its National Film Registry, including blockbuster movies “Titanic,” “Superman,” and “Die Hard,” and the great jazz documentary “Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser.”
It also accepted an obscure student film from 1976 that hasn’t been seen in more than 40 years.
“Time and Dreams” is a personal and political documentary by Mort Jordan, an Alabama native who came to Philadelphia to study film at Temple University in the mid-1970s. Jordan traveled back Alabama, to the mostly rural Greene County, which, in the 1970 elections, had just voted in its first African-American sheriff, put the country’s first black probate judge on the bench, and put a majority of African-Americans on its Board of Education.
Jordan, who is white and was inspired by the civil rights movement of the 1960s, interviewed black and white residents to create a portrait Green County: the African-Americans striving to improve their lives and their white neighbors who clung to their vision of the past.
“Time moves gently across Greene County. It flows with the prairie. You can feel its pull in white columns, magnolias and oaks, the farms town, cotton towns, and country stores,” said Jordan in the film’s voice over, accompanied by images of pendulum clocks and framed portraits of white ancestors. “With love, you turn toward the past with a vision. You nurture the vision and sustain it.”
“But the vision is also a flaw,” he continued. “You wrap yourself with the past, spin it into silk and wrap it around you like a cocoon. Secure within the past you sleep, and dream. Despite all your spinning and dreaming, in this world and these times there are other dreams who will not be dreamed away.”
On accepting the film, the National Film Registry said the film “portrays Greene County, Alabama, as its people move toward understanding and cooperation in a time of social change.”
The lyrical, 50-minute documentary shot on black and white film was completed in 1976, and nominated for a student Academy Award. Then it was put on a shelf for four decades.
Last year “Time and Dreams” was submitted to the Library of Congress for consideration by Leonard Guercio, who maintains the Temple University film archive stretching back almost 50 years.