By Hans Schoots - When film editor Helen van Dongen died on 28 september 2006 at the age of 97 in a nursing home near Brattleboro (Vermont) in the United States, the media were at a loss about her filmography. Van Dongen was born in the Netherlands and moved to the United States in the thirties. She edited about twenty films, in part directed by Joris Ivens and Robert Flaherty, in part directed by herself and others, but it is hard to find a good list of her work.
On Van Dongens collaboration with Joris Ivens, information can be found in several Ivens-filmographies. On this part of her work there is almost general consensus. The same goes for her work with Flaherty. It is the work that she did without them, that remains poorly documented. The only decent Van Dongen filmography was drafted by Eva Orbanz of the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin. It appeared in Helen van Dongen: Robert Flahertys 'Louisiana Story' published by Deutsche Kinemathek in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Konstanz 1998).
The following list is based on the filmography by Eva Orbanz, on several Ivens-filmographies, on my book Living Dangerously. A Biography of Joris Ivens and on some own recent research. It is still a filmography in progress.
Zuiderzee, director Joris Ivens, Netherlands 1930, some camerawork.
Zuiderzeedijk, Netherlands, 1931?, editor.*
Nieuwe polders, Netherlands, 1931?, editor.*
Creosoot [Creosote], directors Joris Ivens and Jean Dréville, Netherlands 1931, editor (with Ivens and Dréville).
Philips Radio, director Joris Ivens, Netherlands 1931, editor (with Ivens).
Regen [Rain] (soundversion), director Joris Ivens, Netherlands 1933, soundeditor (with Lou Lichtveld).
Nieuwe gronden [New Earth], director Joris Ivens, Netherlands 1934, editor and some camerawork.
Daily Life, director Hans Richter, France 1934, editor.
Borinage (Russian version), director Joris Ivens, Soviet Union 1934, editor.
Borzy / Kämpfer, director Gustav von Wangenheim (initially with Joris Ivens), Soviet Union 1936, editor.
Spain in Flames, compilation, United States 1936, editor.
Spanish Earth, director Joris Ivens, United States 1937, editor.
You Can Draw, United States 1938, director, production, editor.
The 400 Million, director Joris Ivens, United States 1939, editor.
We Who Made America (unfinished), United States 1939, director and editor.
Pete-Roleum and His Cousins, United States 1939, director(?) and editor.**
Power and the Land, director Joris Ivens, United States 1940, editor.
The Land, director Robert Flaherty, United States 1942, editor.
Russians at War, United States 1942, director and editor.
Netherlands America, United States 1943, director and editor.
Peoples of Indonesia, United States 1943, director and editor.
Know Your Enemy : Japan, director Joris Ivens (walked out before the film was finished), United States 1945, editor.
News Review No. 2, United States 1945, director and editor.
Calligraphy, director Robert Flaherty (unfinished), United States 1946, editor.
Gift of Green, United States 1946, director (with David Flaherty), editor and score.
Louisiana Story, director Robert Flaherty, United States 1948, editor.
Of Human Rights, United States 1950, director and editor.
* As a by-product of Wij bouwen [We Are Building] and Zuiderzee two now lost films seem to have been made: Zuiderzeedijk [Zuiderzee-dike] and Nieuwe polders [New Polders]. They appear to have been commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat, the government bureau for watermanagement. According to Helen van Dongen she edited both films.
** This film is often mentioned as director Joseph Loseys first film. Eva Orbanz considers it to be directed by Helen van Dongen, in accordance with the view of the latter. Losey – who wrote the scenario and was completely new to the filmtrade at the time – probably played a smaller role than was later assumed. A directors credit for Van Dongen might be more reasonable.