Jim Klein has been an active member of the independent film movement since the early 1970s. He is a founder of the pioneering film distribution co-operative New Day Films and active in the filmmaker organizations that shaped the field. With partner, Julia Reichert, he created such innovative documentaries as Growing Up Female, the first documentary about women from a feminist perspective, which was selected for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress; Academy Award nominee Union Maids, one of the first oral history films; and Academy Award nominee Seeing Red, a challenging film about American communists. His films Letter to the Next Generation and Taken for a Ride both had national broadcasts on PBS’s flagship POV series.
Klein has also had a distinguished career as an editor, with principal editing credits on several dozen films, including the Prime Time Emmy winning A Lion In The House, a two night PBS special about kids and their families fighting cancer; Academy Award nominee The Last Truck, about the closing of a GM truck factory; and Scout’s Honor, a film about anti-gay discrimination within the Boy Scouts.
Klein has edited five fiction feature films, including The Speed of Life, which won a Special Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival, and The Dream Catcher, which won the Best Director award at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.
He is also a retired Professor in the School of Theatre, Dance and Film at Wright State University.
Films by Jim Klein
Following a long buried trail of auto/oil industry schemes, Taken for a Ride exposes the dummy corporations, secret stock transactions and propaganda campaigns that destroyed one third of the nation’s streetcars.
The film reveals the tragic and little known story of an auto and oil industry campaign, led by General Motors, to buy and dismantle streetcar lines. Across the nation, tracks were torn up—sometimes overnight—and diesel buses placed on city streets. The highway lobby then pushed through Congress a vast network of urban freeways that doubled the cost of the Interstates, fueled suburban development, increased auto dependence, and elicited passionate opposition. Seventeen city freeways were stopped by citizens who would become the leading edge of a new environmental movement.
With investigative journalism, vintage archival footage and candid interviews, Taken for a Ride presents a revealing history of our cities in the 20th century that is also a meditation on corporate power, city form, citizen protest, and the social and environmental implications of transportation.
Taken for a Ride had its broadcast premiere on the PBS documentary flagship series POV in August 1996, and was featured at numerous international film festivals, including IDFA in Amsterdam. The film was also distributed to European television outlets, and purchased by hundreds of university and college libraries in the U.S.
Growing Up Female is the very first film of the modern women's movement. Produced in 1971, it caused controversy and exhilaration. It was widely used by consciousness-raising groups to generate interest and help explain feminism to a skeptical society. The film looks at female socialization through a personal look into the lives of six women, age 4 to 35, and the forces that shape them--teachers, counselors, advertising, music and the institution of marriage. It offers us a chance to see how much has changed--and how much remains the same. Purchased by more than 400 universities and libraries.
Sitdowns, scabs, goon squads, unemployment, hunger marches, red baiting and finally the energetic birth of the CIO: the 1930s were a landmark period for the American labor movement. Union Maids is the story of three women who lived that history and make it come alive today. It was the first film of its kind–an oral history, using a wealth of footage from the National Archives to chronicle the fight to form industrial unions as seen through the eyes of rank and file women. The film was widely distributed in 16mm, including theatrical dates in about 20 cities.
Jim Klein, a student of the 1960s, returns to college to take an eye-opening look at the values and aspirations of college students, probing behind the stereotypes to ponder the forces that were changing the country and the campuses in the early 1990s. Set at Kent State, twenty years after four students were shot dead by National Guardsmen during an anti-war demonstration, the film uses that benchmark event to gauge the feelings of students in the 1990s about activism, ambition, success, racism, getting ahead and having a good time.
Letter to the Next Generation had its premiere at Kent State on May 4th, 1990 in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the shootings there. On that same day, it opened at theaters in twelve cities. Over the next two months, the film played theatrically in more than 35 cities including New York, Chicago, Boston, Detroit and San Francisco, receiving positive reviews in the New York Times (Canby), New York Post and Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Sun and San Francisco Chronicle, among others. Letter to the Next Generation was broadcast nationally on PBS in July, 1990.
A film about passionate commitment, numbing disillusionment and renewal, Seeing Red is an informed look at the hopes and aspirations of more than a million people who joined the American Communist Party between the Great Depression and the Cold War, and were transformed by their experience. Fighting for the causes of unionization, unemployment and Social Security benefits, and the eight-hour day, they committed themselves to what they believed was the right way for America. Not just a rosy remembrance, Seeing Red looks critically at the party’s connection with the Soviet Union and its lack of internal democracy. An invaluable resource for courses in political science, political sociology, and social movements.
One of the most widely seen theatrical documentaries of the decade, Seeing Red premiered at the Telluride and New York Film Festivals and played in nearly 100 cities, including 10 weeks in New York City, 10 weeks in the San Francisco Bay area, 7 weeks in Boston and Seattle, and 5 weeks in LA. It has been broadcast in over a dozen other countries around the world. In 1989 it was chosen as one of five feature documentaries representing American work in the 1980’s for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the National Film Board of Canada.