DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA Conversations Feature Films


Screens as part of the Guggenheim Symposium with Lee Grant

Years before the economic catastrophes of COVID-19 and the 2008 recession, the U.S. experienced the tumult and divisiveness of the 1980s, a period that saw the country rapidly splitting into the haves and have nots. Lee Grant’s devastating 1986 Academy Award®-winning documentary takes a compassionate, clear-eyed look at those left behind in Reagan’s America. From desperate family farmers in Minnesota to unemployed factory workers in the Midwest and homeless people forced to live in decrepit welfare hotels in Los Angeles and New York, a cruel picture emerges of a country unmoored from its basic principles and core values. But beneath the weight of such crushing hardship, Grant finds courageous people who, on the verge of losing everything, discover the power of community organizing to fight injustice and to preserve basic human dignity.

Closed Captioning available

Lee Grant is an acclaimed American actor and filmmaker. Her first movie role, in DETECTIVE STORY, earned her an Academy Award® nomination. After being blacklisted in 1952 for 12 years, Lee resumed her acting career in the 60s, splitting her time between film, television and the stage. She went on to receive three other Academy® Award nominations for acting, including her win for SHAMPOO in 1976. Grant was also nominated for the Emmy Award® seven times between 1966 and 1993, winning twice. Later in her career, Grant trained to be a director, becoming a member of the inaugural class of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women. In 1980, Grant directed her first feature-length narrative film, TELL ME A RIDDLE. Increasingly focused on directing documentaries, Grant’s films include WHAT SEX AM I?, a groundbreaking exploration of the trans experience in 1980s America, and DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA, for which she won the 1987 Academy Award® for Best Documentary.


Country: USA

Year: 1986

Director: Lee Grant

Producers: Joseph Feury, Milton Justice

Director of Photography: Tom Hurwitz

Editor: Milton Ginsberg

Music: Tom Manoff

Running Time (minutes): 57 MIN

Language: English