At the end of last year we began work on the collection of films in our archive by the Dutch documentary filmmaker Leonard M. Henny (4 August 1935 - 17 September 2011), donated to EYE before his death. Henny was a politically engaged filmmaker, what you would call a guerrilla filmmaker, but also a writer and professor with an academic background in sociology and Urban planning. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He spent much of his life moving between America and Europe, residing in Berlin, Cambridge Massachusetts, San Francisco, St. Louis Missouri, Micronesia and Venezuela. Throughout his life he worked as a professor and researcher at several American and Dutch Universities. During his time at the Sociological Institute of the University of Utrecht he coached various sociology students in documentary filmmaking.
Henny was interested in the use of film as a tool to depict the elements of social, political and economic change that were taking place throughout America and Europe. He was mostly active as a filmmaker in the 1960s and 1970s. Much of his own work documents the Black Power Movement and the impact of the Vietnam war, both in Vietnam and in the United States. Henny was driven by the belief that film can be used as a platform for engaging people in discussion in order to harness a good understanding and much-needed solidarity with those groups or individuals in society who are oppressed or continually subjected to injustices.
“The main purpose of my films is to provide information on social problems from the point of view of people who are confronted with the problems, and who want to change them. In this way, the films provide graphic knowledge, and become a tool for people in universities, schools, churches and community groups to stimulate constructive discussion of the issues of our time…Thus, films provide an opportunity for people to meet with others with similar interests who are willing to engage themselves in efforts to change this world into a better place to live.” Leonard Henny
Whilst we were identifying and analysing Henny’s films we came across one film can labelled “Peace Pickets Original”. Within this can we found a fragment of a 16mm film reel which contains silent colour footage of Martin Luther King Jr entering Santa Rita Rehabilitation Centre. The footage, which is in excellent condition, depicts King being driven to the prison in a white car and then cuts to him, presumably upon exiting the prison, getting out of the car and delivering an impromptu speech to a crowd of anti-war protesters. After conducting thorough research on this subject matter we found that Martin Luther King was visiting the prison in Santa Rita on January 14th 1968 in order to visit his friend, the folk singer and activist, Joan Baez. Baez had been arrested, along with her mother and her sister, for “disturbing the peace” at an anti-Vietnam war demonstration. In Leonard Henny’s film “Peace Pickets Arrested for Disturbing the Peace” - a documentary depicting the early draft resistance demonstrations - there is clear footage of Baez’s arrest.
The speech King delivered outside the Santa Rita Rehabilitation Centre was recorded by Pacifica Coast Radio and can be found here.
Footage of an Interview with Joan Baez (courtesy of the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive) on the day she was released from prison can be found here.
At this stage we are still researching this important collection with the idea to start preservation on the films, including this special find, in the near future, aiming to generate interest in these rarely seen documents witnessing major social changes of its time. This is now just a first step in this direction and we will come back with updates during the process.
Simona Monizza, curator Experimental Film & Ruth Sweeney, intern.Tag:Martin Luther King Jr, Leonard Henny, experimental film, experimentele film, Joan Baez