Herman J. Engel
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Sonya Friedman and Herman J. Engel

View Herman J. Engel's Todd: Growing Up in Appalachia

Herman J. Engel was a noted filmmaker and executive, specializing in topics relating to sexual, social, and governmental politics. Born in 1924, Engel graduated from Harvard University in 1944, concentrating on medieval history and literature. After two years as an independent writer and researcher, he was employed in 1947 as an assistant in writing and production at Encyclopaedia Britannica Films. From 1948-51, he served as Chief of Production, Bureau of Visual Instruction, University of Wisconsin, where he produced, wrote, and directed films for the university and the state on subject such as  agriculture, mental health, and language teaching. From 1951-1969 he was an independent film-maker in New York. From 1969-2008, he was a partner in Texture Films, Inc, a production and distribution company. Among the films produced by Texture were several made by Gerald McDermott.  Subsequently, Engel co-managed Four Corners Productions, a production/distribution company for the work of  independent film and video makers. His partner in each of those ventures was his wife, Sonya Friedman. From 1990-2003,  Engel was in charge of the documentary program at the New York University Graduate School of Film and Television. Some of his former students are currently documentary activists in Bogota, Geneva, New York, Los Angeles, and the Philippines. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 83. 

Engel's strong political and social commitments were expressed through his antiwar films, "Dr. Spock and His Babies" on the Vietnam War, "Dear President Bush" on the Gulf War, and his advocacy videos "Women in Prison" and "Would You Cross a Picket Line?", the latter about a nurses' strike in a small town. Engel's pioneering and controversial films "About Sex" (for teenagers), "Sex and the Professional" (for doctors and nurses) and "Loving Parents" (for parent groups) were widely distributed to schools, libraries, medical centers, colleges and pro-choice  groups.  He also created documentaries for NBC, CBS, Planned Parenthood, The National Institute of Mental Health, and Save The Children" as well as the art films "Jack Levine" and "The Clay Circus."  He co-wrote and -produced "Documentary!" a noted history of the non-fiction film. Engel was a popular, inspiring teacher and mentor.  For 13 years, he was in charge of the documentary program at the New York University Graduate School of Film and Television. Some of his former students are currently documentary activists in Bogota,  Geneva, New York, Los Angeles, and the Philippines. As a lover of poetry and progressive politics, his last film, "Grace", was about his friend of 55 years: Grace Paley, the writer and political activist.  



CLAY CIRCUS, THE - - creation of clay sculptures based on the circus, to introduce sculpture to children, featuring the work of Shay Rieger.
JACK LEVINE - the distinguished American painter paints a major canvas about the McCarthy era.


DOCUMENTARY!  -  120" - a history of  the non-fiction film from "Man With A Movie Camera" to "Harlan County".  For Four Corners Productions.

Health and Sexuality:

ABOUT SEX - 30" - sexual enlightenment for teenagers. Herman J. Engel production.
DIABETICS UNKNOWN (1962) 29" Sponsored by the Public Affairs Committee
FACE OF YOUTH, THE Sponsored by the Bureau of Visual Instruction, University of Wisconsin
FERTILITY CONTROL AND THE PHYSICIAN - a teaching documentary for medical students. For Planned Parenthood.
LOVING PARENTS - 30" - sexuality, for parent groups.  Herman J. Engel production.
MARGARET SANGER - a portrait of the famous birth-control advocate, narrated by Katherine Hepburn.  For Planned Parenthood.
SEX AND THE PROFESSIONAL - 30" - for medical and nursing students. Herman J. Engel production.


ARMS AND THE STATE - NBC "White Paper" - about the military-industrial complex.
IMPEACHMENT - a historical review of this clause in the Constitution.
MADRE - a documentary about an unusual women's organization active in Central America.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY (1972) 11"  Writer: Herman J Engel. Director: Steve Minor. Examines money as a medium of exchange, a form of sculpture and a part of history. Examines dollars and cents, dinars, rupees, pesetas and other monies.
OUR OWN COUNTRY, NICARAGUA - a history of the country and its culture.
TENT IS NOT ENOUGH, A (1960) For Council for Middle Eastern Affairs. Deals with the problem of Palestinian refugees left homeless after the establishment of Israel as a nation in 1948 - 16 minutes  


DR. SPOCK AND HIS BABIES - the famous pediatrician as an anti-war activist. Herman J. Engel production.
DEAR PRESIDENT BUSH - video about the Gulf War, a protest.  Herman J. Engel production.
"WOMEN IN PRISON" for the N.Y. Correctional Society.
WOULD YOU CROSS A PICKET LINE? - a nurses' strike in a small town, explaining workers' rights.  For the Workers' Defense League. 


DEFINITE AND MULTIPLE PROPORTIONS (1960) Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC)
DYNAMICS OF SOLUTION (1962) McGraw-Hill Basic Chemistry Series
KINETIC MOLECULAR THEORY (1961) McGraw-Hill Basic Chemistry Series
RADIOACTIVITY (1961) McGraw-Hill Basic Chemistry Series
STRUCTURE OF WATER (1961) McGraw-Hill Basic Chemistry Series
TEMPERATURE AND MATTER (1961) McGraw-Hill Basic Chemistry Series

Other subjects: 

TODD: GROWING UP IN APPALACHIA (1970) The story of an Appalachian family, for Learning Corporation of America.
WINDOW, THE - about the National Audubon Society's program for young people. N.A.S.
WITCHES BREW (1977) co-directed by John Robotham. Kinetic poetry on the theme "Why should I eat this gluey mess?"

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