Cinema Progress (1935 - 1937)

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Progress— Where to? Some educators and parents look with alarm at the frequent movie attendance by the young people. A child exposed to so many exciting experiences loses his sense of normal everyday values; the routine and obligations of family and school life become uninteresting and tedious to him; by and by he develops an insatiable desire for continuous fun, good time and thrills. Steeped in an unreal world of false values and expectations, movie-struck children easily become unbalanced and maladjusted and finish with nervous breakdown and delinquency. The general atmosphere of big city life with the downfall of conventions, traditions and moral code, coupled with the gloomy perspective of unemployment, greatly contribute to the growing social unrest in the young generation. A conclusion might be drawn from this, that motion pictures are purely a negative factor in the life of young people. But is this conclusion right? Being a part and parcel of modern life, motion pictures reflect both aspects — the tendency of social decay, and social regeneration ; and it depends a good deal upon the competent social effort of the very persons who see the danger which pictures of the first type may have on youth to counteract the influence of these pictures and to encourage the production of the second type of pictures. They may do this by building up public opinion in favor of a desirable rather than an undesirable type of pictures. The movie problem cannot be solved by coercion and prohibition, which have proved to be ineffective in America, and by the censorship which cannot eliminate insipid inferences and instill positive values and vital spirit into the banality of some films. Therefore the way out lies in the "cultural activism" of educators, parents and civic leaders. With the large motion-picture-conscious audience behind them, they can neutralize the box-office promptings of sensation hunters, by an insistent demand for a higher type of pictures. Instead of an attempt to isolate youth from the problems pounding into their consciousness in every step of life, from the newspaper, radio, motion picture, etc., cultural leaders should give youth a mental "serum" to protect them from destructive interpretation of these problems and their wrong solutions offered by the morally and mentally decaying elements of our society. Confronted with the complexities and contradictions current in motion pictures, young people will not be lost or easily misled if they are armed with "inner censorship," growing out of a right and effective criterion of judgment of pictures. Guided and assisted by their teachers and parents with whom they will discuss films, young people will be able to discount the untruth and sham in pictures, to discriminate between them and finally to develop their own taste — the youth's best protection. The criterion for judgment and selection of motion pictures thus becomes one of the most important problems in teaching discrimination. Several articles will be published in later issues of CINEMA PROGRESS on the subject. Here we can establish only the main principles of such a criterion. The dogmatic, mechanical formulae cannot guide youth in problems of life and art and help them to grow into a flexible, imaginative and vigorous generation, capable of meeting the crucial problems