Documentary Review: ‘Pressing On: The Letterhead Press’

Reflecting over the rich history of printing press, this documentary is truly one-of-a-kind experience with the ancient art. Once popular and only means of communication, the printing press was heart and soul of every industry. Through letters, newspapers, books and printed media as this art entered into the daily lives of people, it resembled an essential medium more than a creative art. Bringing its history, popularity and usage to the audience of today, directors Andrew Quinn and Erin Beckloff have done an incredible job. It touches the age-old sentiments, pulling nostalgia and celebration into one piece.

The documentary flows at a smooth pace, introducing every milestone of the printing press. It depicts the printing machines that created imprints on paper. As the camera follows through the journey from past to present, it turns educational, entertaining and creative for the audience. There are happy memories of the printing press to recent thoughts about an obsolete system. While digital and virtual world of today has slowly replaced this once popular form, it is still celebrated and utilized at some levels.

It tries to capture this relevance and significance in today’s age. The story prompts us to appreciate the importance of printing press at a time when information and news did not travel as instantly as it does today. It speaks to several individuals from the industry sharing their experiences and memories. ‘Printing on’ does not come across as a typical serious documentary. It has wonderful background music that seems attractive, magical and invites viewers to be a part of the historic process. Both young and old members share their experiences with the printing press. While the elders used it as part of their usual job, the younger generation today enjoys connecting with it as a creative art form. It demonstrates the journey from wood to metal as diverse letters, fonts, characters and digits made their presence into the printing press.

‘Printing on- the letterpress film’ is like opening a treasure box to discover one interesting piece after the other. True to its educational essence, it shows how the machine was operated and utilized carefully. With photographs and video clippings from the historic times, it appears detailed and complete in every way. A joyous walk down the memory lane, it celebrates the glorious journey of the printing press so far.

From working actively for delivering news to sitting in garages and backyards as piece of junk, from holding a nostalgic value to being sold as antique, the printing press machines and type-faces have come a long journey. The documentary shows their current usage for printing posters of bands and musical performances even today.

A gripping tale from start to end, it flows flawlessly, engaging audience all along. Watch this documentary to get a close and detailed look of the printing press. A celebration of purpose, need, novelty, progress and improvement, this piece has all the elements in their proper place.


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