Directed by John Hanson & Rob Nilsson, 1977-1980, USA, 107 min
CineManifest / New Front Films | 16mm from Citizen Cinema, Northern Pictures, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota, permission from The Metrograph
A companion to John Hanson and Rob Nilsson’s remarkable feature Northern Lights (1978), the Prairie Trilogy pivots on the memories of 97-year-old League veteran and self-described optimistic socialist Henry Martinson.
With 21st century politics forged along a highly polarized, seemingly intractable red state-blue state divide, it’s easy to believe that American society is static and organizing futile. But coalitions, parties, ideologies, and loyalties continually shift, decouple, and evolve, as demonstrated by the oft-neglected radical history of North Dakota, site of the Nonpartisan League, established as a farmers’ counterweight to eastern monopolies and trusts in 1922. John Hanson and Rob Nilsson’s trilogy of documentaries, funded by the North Dakota Humanities Council and the North Dakota AFL-CIO, is a lively act of recovered history on 16mm.