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2017 National Film Registry is more than a 'Field of Dreams'
The 1987 musical biopic “La Bamba” told the story of rock’s first Mexican-American superstar, Ritchie Valens.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the 2017 selections to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Selected for their cultural, historic and/or aesthetic importance, these 25 motion pictures range from an early film of the New York subway in 1905 and the musical biopic “La Bamba” to the holiday action thriller “Die Hard” and “The Goonies,” the adventure tale of a band of misfits.

“The selection of a film to the National Film Registry recognizes its importance to American cinema and the nation’s cultural and historical heritage,” Hayden said. “Our love affair with motion pictures is a testament to their enduring power to enlighten, inspire and inform us as individuals and a nation as a whole. Being tasked with selecting only 25 each year is daunting because there are so many great films deserving of this honor.”

Spanning the period 1905 to 2000, the films named to this year’s registry include Hollywood blockbusters, documentaries, silent movies, animation, shorts and independent and home movies. The 2017 selections bring the number of films in the registry to 725, which is a small fraction of the Library’s vast moving-image collection of 1.3 million items.

Among this year’s selections are the 1939 aviation adventure starring Cary Grant, “Only Angels Have Wings”; Elia Kazan’s 1947 study of anti-Semitism, “Gentleman’s Agreement”; Stanley Kramer’s 1967 groundbreaking drama “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” featuring powerhouse performances by Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and Sidney Poitier; Yvonne Rainer’s 1972 experimental film “Lives of Performers”; the Steven Spielberg-executive produced 1985 adventure “The Goonies”; the 1989 inspirational fantasy “Field of Dreams,” starring Kevin Costner; “Titanic,” James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster about the great maritime disaster; Christopher Nolan’s 2000 breakthrough thriller “Memento”; two very different films starring Kirk Douglas, the historical epic “Spartacus” and the film noir “Ace in the Hole”; and the 1978 version of the quintessential superhero, “Superman,” directed by Richard Donner, who also was the director of “The Goonies.”

“I thank the National Film Registry for choosing ‘Superman: The Movie’ and ‘The Goonies’ as films to be treasured,” Donner said upon hearing the news. “They are both special films in my life, as was the cast and crew for both. It’s wonderful to see them listed among so many great films.”

Several films on the registry showcased the ethnic diversity of American cinema. The 1979 documentary-styled “Boulevard Nights” depicts the struggles facing Chicano youth in Los Angeles, and the 1987 musical biopic “La Bamba” told the story of rock’s first Mexican-American superstar, Ritchie Valens.

Directed by Luis Valdez, “La Bamba” also starred Lou Diamond Phillips as Valens, who tragically died in a plane crash at the age of 17. “I cannot be more proud of its inclusion in the National Film Registry not in the least because, in this day and environment, ‘La Bamba’ still speaks to the American Dream and to inclusion and representation,” said Phillips, noting the film’s 30th anniversary. “The heart and light of this timeless movie continues to inspire young people of every background to claim their rightful place in American society.”

African-American director Charles Burnett’s “To Sleep with Anger” (1990) examines cultural and generational conflicts within a black family. “I can’t imagine being in the mix with such great films and directors,” Burnett said about the film’s inclusion in the registry. “I’m so happy for the people who believed in the film. I’m thankful that the film reached so many people in a good way. I hope this means that people will be able to see the film for a long time to come and will still be meaningful.”

The documentaries and shorts named to the registry include “4 Little Girls,” Spike Lee’s sensitive account of the deaths of four young children in the 1963 church firebombing in Alabama; “Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser,” an insightful 1988 film about the famed jazz pianist-composer, directed by Charlotte Zwerin; “With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain” (1937-1938), an advocacy documentary shot during the Spanish Civil War; and “Time and Dreams” (1976), a student film by Mort Jordan, who documents the two racially divided societies in his Alabama hometown.

Other selections include “Wanda” (1971), a character study about loneliness and personal isolation written and directed by actress Barbara Loden, and a collection of home movies of the Fuentes family in the 1920s and 1930s in Corpus Christi. These films are among the earliest visual records of the Mexican-American community in Texas.

Two animated films that made the list are “Dumbo,” Disney’s 1941 timeless tale about a little imperfect elephant, and “The Sinking of the Lusitania,” a 1918 propaganda short combining animation, editorial cartoon and live-action documentary techniques.

Silent motion pictures include an actuality film of the interior of the New York subway, documenting the transportation marvel in 1905—less than seven months after its opening—and the 1924 landmark drama “He Who Gets Slapped,” starring Lon Chaney in one of the earliest “creepy clown” movies.

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