The Land Beyond the Sunset (1912)
Article 5664 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Harold M. Shaw
Featuring Martin Fuller, Mrs. William Bechtel, Walter Edwin
What it is: Drama with fantastic elements
A poor newsboy lives in squalor with his abusive grandmother. However, he comes by a ticket to a picnic hosted by the Fresh Air Fund, an organization which takes poor city kids out to the country to enjoy nature.
From what I gather, the Fresh Air Fund was a real organization (which, according to IMDB, still exists), and this short amounts to a commercial for the charitable group. In some ways, it’s quite effective; the opening scenes with the boy in the city are rather depressing and make you feel for the boy. The fantastic elements have to do with a story told to the boy at the picnic about a boy who escapes from a wicked witch with the help of the fairies and is allowed to escape by boat to the Land Beyond the Sunset, a world without worries. The story is shown visually, and it’s pretty apparent who the witch and the fairies are within the context of what’s happening. The ending is both fascinating and problematic; when the picnic breaks up, we’re left wondering whether it was just a momentary respite in the boy’s life; does he have any option other than returning the squalor of his daily existence? The movie gives him an out, and even though the ending is somewhat haunting and ambiguous, one is left wondering a little whether the Fresh Air Fund may have been exaggerating their influence. Still, it’s the ending that really makes this one memorable.