Get local news delivered straight to your phone
Support City Paper!
The U.S. government got into the movie business with the Works Project Administration during the Depression, when all sorts of gigs were rare—including jobs making films about other people’s jobs. This documentary series, which complements a photography exhibition opening Dec. 16 (a work from the show is pictured), includes two short WPA films, Hands and We Work Again, in a program titled “From the Vaults: The Way We Worked on Film.” The United States at midcentury was still full of agricultural and industrial jobs, yet this retrospective’s films offer some hints of the upcoming service economy. “From the Vaults” includes Boomtown, which observes the clerks who kept the forms, orders, and requisitions moving in Washington during World War II. Also featured is Roll On, Columbia: Woody Guthrie and the Bonneville Power Administration, an account of Guthrie’s temporary position with the dam-building agency. Guthrie didn’t haul rocks or pour concrete—he was the resident folk singer, penning such pro-development ditties as “Roll On, Columbia.” An even friskier approach to good-ol’-days employment is taken by The Phantom of the Operator, a montage of found footage depicting what is perhaps the first widespread information-technology job: answering the phone. Filmmaker Caroline Martel, who will discuss her film after the screening, has collaged clips from more than 100 advertising, scientific, and corporate movies into this tribute to female telephone and switchboard operators. The program starts at 5:30 p.m. in the National Archives’ theater, 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Free. (202) 501-5000.