Made in collaboration with Noël Burch, the video Red Hollywood (1996-2013) is one product of Andersen’s years of research into the Hollywood blacklist, a larger project that comprises several essays and a book, Les communistes de Hollywood: Autre chose que martyrs, also written with Burch, that has never appeared in English.
At the heart of Andersen’s project is the conviction that, contrary to the claims of their milquetoast liberal apologists, many of the writers, directors and producers who refused to testify before HUAC were not only committed leftists of one sort or another, but that many of them produced films of political significance. As he wrote in his first essay on the subject: “It would be an injustice to those who were blacklisted to say they did nothing to deserve it. A history of the blacklist must first be worthy of them all.”
In the video, this argument is persuasively advanced through Billy Woodbury’s narration. But it is much more than a cinematic extension of the arguments Andersen and Burch have made elsewhere. Through extended excerpts from more than 50 films, and in interviews with blacklisted artists, including Abraham Polonsky, Paul Jarrico, and Afred Lewis Levitt, Andersen and Burch give the films and filmmakers space to speak for themselves, sometimes to confirm, sometimes to contradict the filmmakers’ own claims.
The video’s dialectical structure produces a three-dimensional monument to the polysemous powers of cinema. Even more than any of its particular claims, Red Hollywood insists upon the political necessity of popular art forms and the dignity of the sometimes unpopular artists who use them.