Still from Paper Moon, 1973, courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Still from Paper Moon, 1973, courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Children’s Journeys into the 1930s

April 23, 2020
Adam Piron, Assistant Curator for Film

As we continue to engage with art remotely, LACMA’s Assistant Curator for Film, Adam Piron will recommend a biweekly selection of new and classic films that provide a distilled focus on filmmakers, performers, and genres available to stream from home. Film has an important place at LACMA and we believe in its role as a point of connection, education, and comfort for our audiences and members.

Of the many eras that American filmmaking frequents as a historical setting, one of the more unique has always been the Great Depression. While there are instances of history repeating itself, it’s a moment in time that reflects a questioning of the national character as well as celebrating a unique brand of American perseverance through uncertainty. This, in part, is why it’s proven to be such a compelling subgenre for children's films and tales about the journey of youth through a rapidly changing world.

It’s important to distinguish these films as being separate from those made during the 1930s, in that they’re more about exploring aspects of Americana rather than an artifact of their contemporary period. They depict a culture laid bare, faults and all, and provide an avenue for youthful inquiry and big questions. By taking on the Depression as a subject, these stories also allow the child characters to act as individuals in their own adventures of navigating friendship, family, injustice, courage, and uncertainty.

As we continue to practice self-isolation, we’d like to recommend the following films to watch with your young ones and family. Spanning different genre formats, each film takes a journey across different parts of the country during an era of great questioning while also providing classic coming-of-age tales.

Recommended Viewing:

The Journey of Natty Gann (dir. Jeremy Kagan, 1985, 100 mins.)

Paper Moon (dir. Peter Bogdanovich, 1973, 102 mins.)

The Night of the Hunter (dir. Charles Laughton, 1955, 92 mins.)

Sounder (dir. Martin Ritt, 1972, 105 mins.)

Annie (dir. John Huston, 1982, 127 mins.)

The Education of Little Tree (dir. Richard Friedenberg, 1997, 115 mins.)