fbpx Emergency Ward | George Eastman Museum

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Emergency Ward

00:00 Introduction by Peter Bagrov, Senior Curator, Moving Image Department, George Eastman Museum
06:50 Emergency Ward

Emergency Ward (Emergency Ward, St. Vincent's Hospital, New York City: A Reality Film by the Filmscope Process ) (US 1952)
Cinematography and sound recording: Fons Iannelli
Editor: Leo Hurwitz

Release date: not released
Sound: sound
Color: b/w
Length (in feet): 690 ft.
Length (in reels): 1
Running time: 16 min.
Frame rate: 24 fps

Preserved from a 16mm composite print at Cinema Arts Laboratory
Digitized by Eastman Museum Film Preservation Services
Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts; additional funding by the Rohauer Collection Foundation

We would like to thank the estate of Leo Hurwitz for the permission to put this film online.

This gritty, groundbreaking documentary by Leo Hurwitz is considered a predecessor of the direct cinema (or cinema verité) movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Life magazine photographer Fons Iannelli developed a prototype portable, sync-sound film camera and recorder to make documentaries that would have the same kind of immediacy as the best photojournalism. Iannelli provided the raw footage he filmed at New York City’s St. Vincent’s Hospital to Leo Hurwitz, who turned it into a cohesive film. At that time, the legendary filmmaker was blacklisted and could only work incognito. His film was shown to Omnibus TV producer Robert Saudek, who hired Hurwitz (using Iannelli as his front) to make more films for the series. Emergency Ward puts the viewer alongside the medical staff who rise to meet challenge after challenge. Iannelli’s handheld camera gives immediacy to the subjects—doctors and nurses dealing with patients’ needs, the police, the bureaucracy, distraught family members, and resources that are stretched to the limit. Hurwitz edited the images into an absorbing cinema experience, creating an unglamorized portrait of medical professionals doing their compassionate best to serve their community. Today, this film is a reminder of the lengths we ask our health care workers to go in order to provide the medical services we need.