About the Film

 

 

Jack London: 20th Century Man (working title) (JL20CM) is a feature-length documentary directed by Chris Million that examines the extraordinary life and legacy of one of America’s most enduringly popular authors. Best known for classic action stories like The Call of the Wild and The Sea Wolf, Jack London also wrote science fiction, sports journalism, children’s stories, political essays, and personal memoirs, producing some 50 books and more than 200 short stories. 

He was an early documentary photojournalist, reporting from war zones, championship prizefights, and natural disasters. And he was ultimately one of the Twentieth Century’s most important writers, influencing followers from Hemingway to Kerouac.

London’s short but eventful life bridges the Victorian and Progressive Eras and offers a window into a time of great change in America. A time of massive immigration and opportunity, it was also a time of intolerance and prejudice. Industrialization created jobs and hope for a burgeoning working class, but economic exploitation ruled the day. Working women moved up from domestic labor to clerical work, yet were denied the vote. Child labor laws and education reform offered promise of upward mobility, yet enforcement was lax. Many of the issues London explored are still with us in today’s society.

As JL20CM advisor, London scholar Jeanne Campbell Reesman puts it:

Today we are surrounded by the problems of nationalism versus globalism, racial conflict, war, gangs, alcoholism, family violence, the homeless, land use, cultural clashes, Creationism versus Darwinism, censorship, the cult of celebrity … all subjects London takes up.

—Jeanne Campbell Reesman

London’s dystopian novel The Iron Heel is often cited as inspiration for the Occupy Wall Street movement, and references to The Call of the Wild regularly appear in popular culture.

Jack London fell out of favor in the 1950s because he was a Socialist. That such a major American author was disrespected because of politics is a tragedy. London was a gifted writer, prolific in output, daring in subject matter, who embodied the big themes of the early Twentieth Century. London’s frank treatment of race made him something of a rarity on reading lists, and his status as a “popular” writer limited critical research of his work. In addition, there are many misconceptions about his life, resulting from faulty biographies. JL20CM will help set the record straight about Jack London’s integral place in the literary, social, economic, and historical heritages of Sonoma County, the State of California, and America.

There is now more interest in London than ever before, and this is helping generate advance interest in the film. Editing has begun. The completion of JL20CM is planned to coincide with the 100th anniversary of London’s death in 2016, when a huge surge of public interest in him is likely. Timing is important with historical documentaries, and the timing is right for JL20CM.

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