The 1997 biopic “Selena” and the 1979 documentary “Chicana” were two of the 25 influential films added to the National Film Registry today (Dec. 14) by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. The selections are made annually for their cultural, historic, or aesthetic importance to preserve the nation’s film heritage.
The 2021 selections represent one of the most diverse classes of films to enter the registry, with movies dating back nearly 120 years and representing the work of Hollywood studios, independent filmmakers, documentarians, women directors, filmmakers of color, students, and the silent era of film. The selections bring the number of films in the registry to 825, representing a portion of the 1.7 million films in the Library’s collections.
“Films help reflect our cultural history and creativity — and show us new ways of looking at ourselves — though movies haven’t always been deemed worthy of preservation. The National Film Registry will preserve our cinematic heritage, and we are proud to add 25 more films this year,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “The Library of Congress will work with our partners in the film community to ensure these films are preserved for generations to come.”
Several films explore stories from the nation’s diverse communities that often carry universal themes. “Selena,” the 1997 biographical film of Tejana star Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, starred Jennifer Lopez, in her first major movie role, and Edward James Olmos. Directed by Gregory Nava, it told the story of the young singer’s rise to fame in her family band and her tragic death, at 23, when she was shot to death by the head of her fan club after a dispute. Selena’s life, music, and the film became touchstones in Latin American culture, and her infectious appeal crossed over to audiences of all kinds.
Olmos, who played Abraham Quintanilla, the father, and manager of the band, said the movie stands out as a universal family story that happens to be about Mexican-Americans along the Texas-Mexico border.
“It will stand the test of time,” Olmos told the Library. “(It’s) a masterpiece because it allows people to learn about themselves by watching other peoples’ culture.”
California-based director Sylvia Morales was incredulous when she got the call that her 1979 documentary, “Chicana,” was included in this year’s registry class. “Initially, I didn’t believe it,” she said.
“Chicana” is a 22-minute collage of artworks, still photographs, and documentary footage about the struggles of Chicana women over the long course of history and the work they have put in to gain basic rights and wages. That film, and her subsequent career, grew out of Morales’ youthful desire to see people like her on the silver screen.
“I loved the movies, and so I decided early on, when I was a teenager, that I was going to make some movies and put some Mexicans in it,” said Morales. “I think it’s the struggle that’s important, and that’s what ‘Chicana’ is. It’s the struggle to be whoever you are.”
Other films inducted this year include “Star Wars Episode VI — Return of the Jedi”(1983), “Nightmare On Elm Street” (1984), “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001), and “WALL•E” (2008).
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will host a television special Friday, Dec. 17, starting at 8 p.m. ET to screen a selection of motion pictures named to the registry this year. Hayden will join TCM host and film historian Jacqueline Stewart, who is chair of the National Film Preservation Board, to discuss the films. Also, select titles from 30 years of the National Film Registry are freely available online in the National Screening Room. Follow the conversation about the 2021 National Film Registry on Twitter and Instagram at @librarycongress and #NatFilmRegistry.
Films Selected for the 2021 National Film Registry
- Ringling Brothers Parade Film (1902)
- Jubilo (1919)
- The Flying Ace (1926)
- Hellbound Train (1930)
- Flowers and Trees (1932)
- Strangers on a Train (1951)
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
- Evergreen (1965)
- Requiem-29 (1970)
- The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)
- Pink Flamingos (1972)
- Sounder (1972)
- The Long Goodbye (1973)
- Cooley High (1975)
- Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979)
- Chicana (1979)
- The Wobblies (1979)
- Star Wars Episode VI — Return of the Jedi (1983)
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
- Stop Making Sense (1984)
- Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1987)
- The Watermelon Woman (1996)
- Selena (1997)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
- WALL•E (2008)
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