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SFAI Breaks Hollywood Blacklist with Film Festival, Panel

Hollywood Blacklist

George Pepper with Bunuel

As the FBI makes headline news again, a San Francisco filmfest and panel recalls when, starting in 1947, the FBI and U.S. government persecuted artists and activists, driving many into exile during the Hollywood Blacklist/McCarthyism Cold War era. Despotic Senator Joe McCarthy’s right-hand man was Roy Cohn - Trump’s attorney and mentor - who helped send the Rosenbergs to their deaths.

After the “Hollywood Ten” were imprisoned for refusing to inform on political associations and divulge affiliations subsequently subpoenaed artists fled to Europe, Canada and Mexico to avoid testifying to the House Un-American Activities Committee, jail time or ruination of their careers. These internationalist exiles formed communities of resistance that supported the global human rights movement. One talent cauldron in Mexico City included Dalton Trumbo, Albert Maltz, Gordon Kahn, Charles White, John Wilson, Elizabeth Catlett - even Marilyn Monroe. They joined indigenous political talent such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Miguel Covarrubias and others.

In 1951, Hollywood organizer/producer George Pepper and his wife Jeanette fled to Mexico City to avoid subpoenas. Pepper introduced screenwriter Hugo Butler to Spanish film icon Luis Buñuel and the trio began making films together. In 1997 the Writers Guild of America and other talent guilds apologized for their Blacklist roles. Butler and other suppressed screenwriters and directors had their credits restored. But in the U.S. Pepper’s name doesn’t appear on any of the movies he produced during his exile. Attempts to restore Pepper’s name have been ignored by the MPAA and Producers Guild.

The San Francisco Art Institute is the first venue to host a festival screening all of Pepper’s censored films, with overdue credit. In critic James Travers wrote The Young One, the fest’s final film, is Buñuel’s “most remarkable film, although bizarrely it is often omitted from discussions of his work and remains his most neglected and underrated film… Primarily, it is a film which condemns racial prejudice, and was ahead of its time… It was particularly ill-received in America, where the narrow-minded bigotry of some prominent critics consigned it to almost immediate oblivion…”

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Little Giants/Pequeños Gigantes, Mexican baseball classic: 7:00 p.m., Mon., April 1 with special guests.

The Young One, Cannes Film Festival winner: 7:00 p.m., Tues., April 2 with panel.


Following The Young One is a discussion of firsthand accounts of U.S. Cold War repression featuring a panel of survivors of Mexico’s internationalist exile community moderated by film historian Ed Rampell, featuring: Author Margot Pepper; screenwriter Mike Butler; radio/TV host and producer Tony Kahn; Dr. James Kahn; historian Diana Anhalt; educator Lynne Odenheim Kalmar. 8:30 p.m., April 2.

WHERE: San Francisco Art Institute, Osher Lecture Hall, 800 Chestnut Street, SF, CA 94133. FREE.