A look back at this day in film history
November 24
November 5, 1999
American Cinema Shoots Itself

Several days after Halloween in 1999, sophisticated New York cineastes were treated to a real horror film, American Movie, a documentary about two would-be filmmakers stumbling after the American cinematic dream. Director Chris Smith had spend the last years following the progress of aspiring Milwaukee director Mark Borchardt and his best friend Mike Schank as they worked on a horror film, Coven. Though some accused Smith of treating the two men as figures of fun, American Movie captures their passion for film and depicts their sometimes inept low budget methods, offbeat views and mispronunciations (such as Coven, which Borchardt pronounces “coh-ven”) with genuine affection. The film catapulted Borchardt and Schank to unlikely star status as they traveled the world with the film giving highly entertaining Q&A sessions, appearing on talk shows and, in the case of Schank, even playing a version of himself in a movie (Todd Solondz’s Storytelling.) American Movie was a cult hit for Smith and his producing partner Sarah Price, and the pair followed it up by co-directing another humorous doc The Yes Men (2004), about two political pranksters.

More Flashbacks
Emir Kusturica November 24, 1954
Emir Kusturica born

Emir Kusturica, one of the most acclaimed figures in world cinema, was born on this day in 1954 in Sarajevo, the former Yugoslavian city which is now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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November 24, 1948
The Bicycle Thief released

When Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief opened in New York, many heralded it as the finest realization of the Italian Neo-Realist style.

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November 24, 1947
Making a Black List

On 24 November, 1947 –– just days before Thanksgiving –– the House of Representatives voted 346 to 17 to approve citations against the famed Hollywood Ten for contempt of Congress. A month before, the House Un–American Activities Committee (HUAC) had turned its attention to Hollywood, calling up 43 people whom they suspected of communist sympathies, eventually whittling that list down to 11. Of these, Bertolt Brecht agreed to answer questions and immediately left the country. The remaining ten – nine screenwriters and one director – stood pat in their belief that the Fifth Amendment provided a Constitutional right for them not to testify against themselves. The House of Representatives’ vote on 24 November, however, disagreed. The next day, Hollywood joined in, suspending pay for the Hollywood Ten and issuing a joint statement showing their solidarity to fight the red menace. The top studios publicly proclaimed that they would fire anyone who was or had been a communist, and would not hire anyone with communist sympathies (proved or otherwise). Within weeks, scores of studio employees were on the street, pounding the pavement for another job. And the Hollywood Blacklist had officially begun and was in full force.

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