Tips for Engaging with the Film
Three young ladies broadcast a radio program in a WPA recreation project in South Bend, Indiana, ca. 1935-1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Tips for Engaging with the Film

Our invitation to you is to resist the urge to lean back. Lean forward! The act of viewing the film, of being an audience member, can and should be just as artistically challenging and rewarding as the work of making the film itself!  

1. Avoid offering a running commentary regarding the film. Allow things to wash over you before you choose to process everything you’ve watched. Movies are not live sporting events that are heightened by constant play-by-play commentary. If you’re too caught up in writing your mental consumer review while watching, you end up hearing only your own thoughts and miss what the film’s trying to convey. Save the thoughts, commentary and discussion are best served at the end of a movie, when viewers want to analyze and reflect on what they have seen.  

 2. If you don’t understand what’s happening in a certain scene, don’t get anxious and demand answers. A good film will explain what it wants to and will intentionally leave you and your imagination to explore the remaining possibilities. Exposition will come when it needs to.  

3. There are lots of different ways to tell stories. Some stories follow one character, others give more of an impression of a time or place by letting the audience meet several different people. Some are dialogue or action or movement or special effects or music heavy. Rather than rejecting a film for not matching your expectations, ask yourself: “Why is this story being told this way?”  Again. Lean forward, rather than lean back.  

4. Most importantly: Watch and Listen. For the length of the movie, forget what’s around you and just use your senses to watch and listen. If you do this, you’ll see how you can get so much more from watching a good movie. 

A PWA-funded subway project in Chicago. Photo courtesy of the National Archives (June 1940).

Glossary: Defining people, places, things and terms mentioned in Here’s the Deal

Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA):  A  major New Deal program to restore agricultural prosperity during the Great Depression by reducing farm production and export surpluses and raising prices. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC): An American Democratic politician serving as the U.S. representative for New York’s 14th congressional district since 2019. 

Alice Lee Jemison: An indigenous political activist and journalist who was a major critic of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the New Deal policies. She was supported by the Seneca Tribal Council, and also lobbied in support of California, Cherokee, and Sioux Indians during her career. 

Alien Land Laws of 1913: A series of laws that prohibited “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning agricultural land or possessing long-term leases over it, but permitted leases lasting up to three years. It affected the Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Korean immigrant farmers in California.  

Alphabet Soup: Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal created so many different federal agencies to carry out new policies and regulations, the agencies, which each had an acronym, were collectively referred to as “Alphabet Soup Agencies” or just “Alphabet Agencies.” 

Asian Exclusion Act of 1924:  A United States federal law that prevented immigration from Asia, set quotas on the number of immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere, and provided funding and an enforcement mechanism to carry out the longstanding ban on other immigrants. 

Ayn Rand:  A Russian-American writer and philosopher who is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she named Objectivism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed collectivism and statism as well as anarchism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based on recognizing individual rights, including property rights. 

Black Cabinet: The informal term for a group of African Americans who served as public policy advisors to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor Roosevelt in his terms in office from 1933 to 1945. Despite its name, it was not an official organization.  

Black Lives Matter:  A decentralized political and social movement protesting against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against Black people.  

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882:  A United States federal law prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. It was the first, and remains the only law to have been implemented, to prevent all members of a specific ethnic or national group from immigrating to the United States. 

Civil Aeronautics Act: An act that transfers federal responsibilities for non-military aviation to the Civil Aeronautics Authority. The new organization includes the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) and the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA). The CAB is responsible for issuing and overseeing aircraft and pilot certification and suspension, and the CAA is responsible for air traffic control, safety programs, and airway development. 

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): A voluntary public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men ages 18–25 and eventually expanded to ages 17–28. The CCC was a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal that provided manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments.  

Cultural Appropriation: The adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures. 

Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR): A lineage-based membership service organization for women who are directly descended from a person involved in the United States’ efforts towards independence. 

Dennis Chavez: An American politician who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1931 to 1935, and in the United States Senate from 1935 to 1962. He was the first Hispanic person elected to a full term in the U.S. Senate and the first U.S. Senator to be born in New Mexico. 

Department of the Interior: A federal executive department of the U.S. government. It is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and insular areas of the United States, as well as programs related to historic preservation.  

Department of Labor: A Cabinet-level department of the U.S. federal government responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, reemployment services, and some economic statistics; many U.S. states also have such departments. 

Discrimination: The unjust treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex. 

Eleanor Roosevelt: An American political figure, diplomat and activist. She served as the First Lady of the United States from March 4, 1933, to April 12, 1945, during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office. 

Elizabeth Dilling: An American writer and political activist who in 1934, published The Red Network—A Who’s Who and Handbook of Radicalism for Patriots, which catalogs over 1,300 suspected communists and their sympathizers. Her books and lecture tours established her as the pre-eminent female right-wing activist of the 1930s, and one of the most outspoken critics of the New Deal. 

Equity: The quality of being fair and impartial. 

Farm Credit Association (FCA): An independent agency of the federal government of the United States. Its function is to regulate the financial institutions that provide credit to farmers. 

Father Charles Coughlin: A Canadian-American Roman Catholic priest who was based in the United States near Detroit. He was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience; during the 1930s, an estimated 30 million listeners tuned to his weekly broadcasts. 

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC): A United States government corporation providing deposit insurance to depositors in U.S. commercial banks and savings banks. The FDIC was created by the 1933 Banking Act, enacted during the Great Depression to restore trust in the American banking system. 

Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA): A program established by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, building on the Emergency Relief and Construction Act. It was replaced in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). 

Federal Housing Administration (FHA): A United States government agency founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, created in part by the National Housing Act of 1934. The FHA insures mortgages made by private lenders for single family properties, multifamily rental properties, hospitals, and residential care facilities.  

Federal Theatre Project (FTP):  A theater program established during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal to fund live artistic performances and entertainment programs in the United States. 

Frances Perkins: An American workers-rights advocate who served as the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945, the longest serving in that position. A loyal supporter of her longtime friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt, she helped pull the labor movement into the New Deal coalition.  

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: An American politician who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. Roosevelt directed the federal government during most of the Great Depression, implementing his New Deal domestic agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history.  

Great Depression: The worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world, lasting from 1929 to 1939. It began after the stock market crash of October 1929, which sent Wall Street into a panic and wiped-out millions of investors. 

Green New Deal: A proposed package of United States legislation that aims to address climate change and economic inequality. The name refers back to the New Deal, a set of social and economic reforms and public works projects undertaken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression.  

Harold Ickes: An American administrator and politician who served as United States Secretary of the Interior for 13 years, from 1933 to 1946, the longest tenure of anyone to hold the office. 

Herbert Hoover: An American politician, businessman, and engineer, who served as the 31st president of the United States from 1929 to 1933. A member of the Republican Party, he held office during the onset of the Great Depression.  

Huey P. Long: An American politician who served as the 40th governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and as a member of the United States Senate from 1932 until his assassination in 1935. He was a populist member of the Democratic Party and rose to national prominence during the Great Depression for his vocal criticism from the left of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal. 

Indian Reorganization Act:  A measure enacted by the U.S. Congress on June 18, 1934, aimed at decreasing federal control of American Indian affairs and increasing Indian self-government and responsibility. 

Indigenous: Originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native. 

John Collier: An American sociologist, writer, social reformer and Native American advocate. He served as Commissioner for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the President Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and was chiefly responsible for the “Indian New Deal”, especially the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, through which he intended to reverse a long-standing policy of cultural assimilation of Native Americans. 

Lynching: A group killing, especially by hanging, for an alleged offense with or without a legal trial. 

Marian Anderson: An American singer who performed a wide range of music, from opera to spirituals. Anderson performed with renowned orchestras in major concert and recital venues throughout the United States and Europe between 1925 and 1965. 

Mary McLeod Bethune: An American educator, stateswoman, philanthropist, humanitarian, and civil rights activist. Bethune founded the National Council for Negro Women in 1935, established the organization’s flagship journal Aframerican Woman’s Journal, and resided as president or leader for myriad African American women’s organizations including the National Association for Colored Women and the National Youth Administration’s Negro Division. 

Migrant Worker: A person who moves to another country or area in order to find employment, in particular seasonal or temporary work. 

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): A civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 as an interracial endeavor to advance justice for African Americans by a group including W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary White Ovington, Moorfield Storey and Ida B. Wells. 

National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA):  A U.S. labor law and consumer law passed by the 73rd US Congress to authorize the President to regulate industry for fair wages and prices that would stimulate economic recovery.  

National Recovery Administration (NRA):  A prime agency established by U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) in 1933. The goal of the administration was to eliminate “cutthroat competition” by bringing industry, labor, and government together to create codes of “fair practices” and set prices.  

National Youth Administration (NYA):  A New Deal agency sponsored by the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States that focused on providing work and education for Americans between the ages of 16 and 25. It operated from June 26, 1935 to 1939 as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and included a Division of Negro Affairs headed by Mary McLeod Bethune. 

New Deal: A series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1939. It included new constraints and safeguards on the banking industry and efforts to re-inflate the economy after prices had fallen sharply.  

Polio: An infectious disease that can affect the central nervous system with muscle weakness and paralysis, primarily in the legs. In the 20th century it became one of the most worrying childhood diseases in these areas and the first polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s by Jonas Salk. 

Public Works Administration (PWA): A large-scale public works construction agency in the United States headed by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes. It built large-scale public works such as dams, bridges, hospitals, and schools and its goals were to spend $6 billion in all, to provide employment, stabilize purchasing power, and help revive the economy. 

Resettlement Administration (RA):  A New Deal U.S. federal agency created May 1, 1935. It relocated struggling urban and rural families to communities planned by the federal government. 

Rural Electrification Administration (REA):  An organization that was created May 20, 1936, that provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to serve isolated rural areas of the United States. 

Scottsboro Boys: Nine African American teenagers, ages 12 to 19, accused in Alabama of raping two white women in 1931. The landmark set of legal cases from this incident dealt with racism and the right to a fair trial. 

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC): A large independent agency of the United States federal government that was created following the stock market crash in the 1920s to protect investors and the national banking system.  

Segregation: The enforced separation of different racial groups in a country, community, or establishment. 

Social Justice: Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. 

Social Security Act of 1935: A law signed by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. In addition to several provisions for general welfare, the Act created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement. 

Soil Conservation Service (SCS): An agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides technical assistance to farmers and other private landowners and managers. 

Stock Market Crash: A major American stock market crash that occurred in the fall of 1929. It was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States. The crash, which followed the London Stock Exchange’s crash of September, signaled the beginning of the Great Depression. 

Works Progress Administration (WPA): An American New Deal agency, employing millions of job-seekers (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. 

Xenophobia: Dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.