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Kino Lorber Has Acquired the 1979 Documentary About the
Industrial Workers of the World Along with Shaffer’s Collected Works
Other Inductees Include Richard E. Norman’s The Flying Ace (1926) and James and Eloyce Gist’s Hell-Bound Train (1930), both part of Kino Lorber’s Pioneers of African-American Cinema Collection

New York, NY – December 15, 2021 – Kino Lorber announced that it has acquired worldwide rights to the 1979 documentary The Wobblies, co-directed by Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer, which is one of just 25 films inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for 2021.

The Wobblies premiered at the 1979 New York Film Festival and tells the story of the radical labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World or IWW, but better known as the Wobblies, which championed the formation of “one big union” for all unskilled laborers. This story is brought to life through a combination of rare archival footage, period artwork and songs including many written by Joe Hill, complemented by illuminating interviews with surviving Union members.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Tom Morello noted: “Unlike other unions of the time, [the I.W.W.] accepted all workers as members: Black people, women, unskilled laborers, sex workers, immigrants of every race and creed. It sought to forge ‘one big union’ of the entire global working class and used direct action, sabotage, and the power of song in class war against the ruling class. Its reputation as a kick-ass union fueled by kick-ass songs remains the stuff of legends."

Kino Lorber has also acquired the films of Academy Award®-winning director Deborah Shaffer, including:

– Dance of Hope (1989)
– To Be Heard (2010, directed by Roland Legiardi-Laura, Edwin Martinez, Deborah Shaffer, and Amy Sultan)
– Fire from the Mountain (1987)
– From the Ashes: 10 Artists (2001)
– From the Ashes: Epilogue (2002, directed by Deborah Shaffer and Michael Julian Berz)
– Witness to War: Dr. Charlie Clements (1984), winner of an Academy Award®
– The Wobblies (1979, co-directed by Deborah Shaffer and Stewart Bird)

"We're thrilled by this one-two punch for The Wobblies – first the National Film Registry has selected us for preservation and second Kino Lorber has picked us up for national distribution," said Shaffer and Bird. "With their experience, expertise, and reach, our film will finally be able to reach the wide audience it deserves. In this era of concentrated wealth and power, where unions are fighting to form and people are struggling just to survive, The Wobblies is as timely and relevant as ever. We hope our film can demonstrate to new audiences how a group of people working together can take on the powers that still remain entrenched today."

“I congratulate Stewart and Deborah on the long-overdue selection of their landmark documentary, The Wobblies, by the Library of Congress for inclusion on the prestigious National Film Registry,” added Kino Lorber SVP Wendy Lidell. “This history has never been more relevant and we are excited about bringing this important legacy to a new generation.”

Kino Lorber will release a new restoration of The Wobblies in a nationwide event on May Day (May 1), which commemorates the historic struggles and gains made by workers and the labor movement, followed by digital release on Kino Now and on home video. Shaffer’s collected works will be released digitally on Kino Now and on home video.

Also among the 2021 inductees into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress are Richard E. Norman’s The Flying Ace (1926) and James and Eloyce Gist’s Hell-Bound Train (1930), both part of Kino Lorber’s Pioneers of African-American Cinema collection.

A rural crime melodrama revolving around a pair of rival aviators, The Flying Ace (1926, directed by Richard E. Norman) was less concerned with racial politics than with making popular entertainment in the traditional Hollywood style. As such, it came to assume its own historic significance: providing young black viewers with matinee idols who embody the virtue and valor previously reserved for white actors. Filmed at the Norman Studios in the Arlington area of Jacksonville, Florida, The Flying Ace is a unique aviation melodrama in that no airplanes actually lever the ground (The spectacular flight scenes being performed on terra firma, in front of neutral backdrops). 

The work of self-taught filmmakers James and Eloyce Gist, Hell-Bound Train (1930) was created as a component of their traveling ministry. Rather than having a linear story, the film is a series of visual allegories, a car-by-car dramatization of the sins of the Jazz Age, presided over by a horned devil. The surreality of it all makes for a compelling viewing experience, and shows that renegade, visionary filmmakers can be found in the most unexpected places. Hell-Bound Train was meticulously reconstructed from several fragmentary prints by historian S. Torriano Berry, and features a musical score by Sam Waymon (Ganja and Hess).

Pioneers of African-American Cinema is available as a five-disc box set on Blu-ray and DVD.

About Deborah Shaffer
Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Deborah Shaffer began making social issue documentaries as a member of the Newsreel collective the ‘70’s. She co-founded Pandora Films, one of the first women's film companies, which produced several shorts. Her first feature documentary, The Wobblies, premiered at the prestigious New York Film Festival in 1979. During the 80’s Shaffer focused on human rights in Central America and Latin America, directing many films including Witness to War: Dr. Charlie Clements, which won the Academy Award® for Short Documentary in 1985, and Fire from the Mountain and Dance of Hope, which both played at the Sundance Film Festival. Shaffer directed one of the first post-September 11 films, From the Ashes: 10 Artists followed by From the Ashes: Epilogue, which premiered at the Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals. She is also the Executive Producer of the Academy Award®-nominated short Asylum, and has directed numerous acclaimed public television programs on women and the arts. She directed and produced To Be Heard, which won awards at numerous festivals and aired nationwide on PBS. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Irene Diamond Lifetime Achievement Award by the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

About Stewart Bird
Stewart Bird is a Bronx-born writer and filmmaker. Murder at the Yeshiva is his first novel and he is presently writing his second NYPD homicide detective novel with Detective Mo Shuman. He wrote Solidarity Forever, an oral history of the I.W.W. (University of Minnesota Press) with Dan Georgakas and Deborah Shaffer. He also co-authored the play "The Wobblies: The U.S. vs. Wm. D. Haywood et. al.," (with Peter Robilotta), which was performed at the Hudson Guild Theatre in New York and published by Smyrna Press. Bird wrote a one-hour story for PBS entitled "The Mighty Pawns" about a black inner city chess team, which was shown nationally on Wonderworks and distributed nationally by Disney. As a writer/producer for Fox television’s Current Affair, produced various segments: "Alan Berg," "Elvis Presley," "A Cycle of Justice," and "The Night Natalie Died." He worked as a writer/producer for CBS News’ 48 Hours and produced segments like "Another America," "Underground," "Stuck on Welfare," and "Earth Wars." Bird has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (three times), N.Y. Council for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Ford Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation and the New York Council on the Arts. He has produced numerous feature-length documentaries including "Finally Got the News," about black auto workers in Detroit; "Retratos," on the Puerto Rican community in New York; "Coming Home," on Vietnam Veterans; and The Wobblies (with Deborah Shaffer) focusing on the Industrial Workers of the World a turn-of-the-century labor union.

About the National Film Registry
Established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, the National Film Preservation Board works to ensure the survival, conservation and increased public availability of America's film heritage, including: advising the Librarian on its recommendations for annual selections to the National Film Registry, apprising the Librarian of changing trends and policies in the field of film preservation, and counseling the Librarian on ongoing implementation of the National Film Preservation Plan. The National Film Registry selects 25 films each year showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation.

About Kino Lorber
With a library of over 4,000 titles, Kino Lorber Inc. has been a leader in independent art house distribution for 35 years, releasing 30 films per year theatrically under its Kino Lorber, Kino Repertory and Alive Mind Cinema banners, garnering seven Academy Award® nominations in nine years. In addition, the company brings over 350 titles yearly to the home entertainment and educational markets through physical and digital media releases. With an expanding family of distributed labels, Kino Lorber handles releases in ancillary media for Zeitgeist Films, Cohen Media Group, Greenwich Entertainment, Artsploitation, Palisades Tartan, Menemsha Films, Raro Video, and others, placing physical titles through all wholesale, retail, and direct to consumer channels, as well as direct digital distribution through over 40 OTT services including all major TVOD and SVOD platforms. In 2019, the company launched its new art house digital channel Kino Now which features over 1000 titles from the acclaimed Kino Lorber library. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kino Marquee initiative was launched in 2020 pioneering "virtual theatrical" releases of art-house films with revenue shares that allows audiences to support almost 400 local independent theaters.