Best Documentary Movies of 1939
The 400 Million
The 400 million people of China are heirs to a great civilization, as their pagodas and stone lions can attest. But they are under attack from the Japanese. Civilian refugees walk, stumble, crawl to escape the destruction of their cities... While in the China of tradition, water buffalo still work the paddies and camels cross the desert, modern China is now a republic founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, with modern schools, heavy industry, large engineering projects... The government of Chiang Kai-shek resists the Japanese invasion from the coast. Madame Chiang receives a cheque from the U.S.A. for war relief. War production continues in distant villages safe from the grasp of the Japanese. With modern weapons the Chinese are pursuing their struggle behind enemy lines. And still their opponent persists in his reprisal bombings of civilian targets. "Will these people win?"
The Lion Has Wings
This early, influential propaganda film blends documentary and studio footage to show the valiant efforts of the Royal Air Force to defend the British people against the Nazis.
In this short film, two starstruck movie fans hire a tour guide and see a plethora of Hollywood stars.
In Tune with Tomorrow
Through stop motion, a car is built piece-by-piece in 3-D with the added enhancement of music and sound effects. Each part becomes "alive" and has its own distinct characteristics. Originally made for the 1939 World's Fair.
In the middle of 1938, Kamei Fumio and his film crew got themselves attached to an infantry regiment which they followed around through China for about four months, filming their marching and their fighting and their waiting and their dying - in short, their suffering, and not theirs alone, but also that of the people around them, their designated enemies.
This Technicolor portrait of Jakarta was filmed when it was called Batavia and formed part of the Dutch East Indies colonial empire. The film portrays the daily life of citizens and the relaxed atmosphere that prevailed at the time. We see Batavia's Amsterdam Gate, built by the Dutch around 1664, along with the strong influence of Dutch architecture upon other buildings, streets and waterways.
Sword of the Samurai
A short documentary detailing the forging of a katana
Artie Shaw's Class in Swing
This film is less a typical musical short and more like an educational film. It consists of a narrator describing the music, composition and style of a big band.
A visit to the rural agricultural areas of Hungary where the people lead very traditional lifestyles.
A Day at Denham
A look at London Film Productions' studios at Denham.