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Running time
10 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguagesSilent film
English intertitles
Full film

Manhatta (1921) is a short documentary film directed by painter Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand.

Production background[edit]

Manhatta documents the look of early 20th-century Manhattan. With the city as subject, the film consists of 65 shots sequenced in a loose non-narrative structure, beginning with the Staten Island ferry approaching Manhattan and ending with a sunset view from a skyscraper. It is considered by some to be the first American avant-garde film.[1] The primary objective of the film is to explore the relationship between photography and film; camera movement is kept to a minimum, as is incidental motion within each shot. Each frame provides a view of the city that has been carefully arranged into abstract compositions.[2]

Manhatta was a collaboration between painter/photographer Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand. The intertitles include excerpts from the writings of Walt Whitman.

Preservation status[edit]

In 1995 the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[3][4] Restoration proved difficult, as the negative was lost, and only a single heavily damaged 35mm print remained in existence. It was restored for the DVD set Unseen Cinema in October 2005. The film was completely restored in January 2009 by archivist Bruce Posner, working with film restoration company Lowry Digital.[5] Posner spent close to four years returning the film to its original glory. The Museum of Modern Art and Anthology Film Archives also commissioned a new score from New York composer Donald Sosin.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gerstner, David (2006). Manly Arts: Masculinity and Nation in Early American Cinema. Durham: Duke University Press. pp. 119–64. ISBN 978-0822337638.
  2. ^ "Artists View New York | Explore & Learn | the Metropolitan Museum of Art". Archived from the original on October 8, 2009. Retrieved December 29, 2009.
  3. ^ "The 25 Films for '95 (February 5, 1996) - Library of Congress Information Bulletin". Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  4. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  5. ^ "Filmography". Lowry Digital. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
  6. ^ Willis, Holly (January 19, 2009). "Proud and Passionate City". Blur + Sharpen. KCET Online / Community Television of Southern California. Retrieved June 28, 2009.

External links[edit]