6-15 February, 2004
Zeughauskino, Deutsches Historisches Museum, 2 Unter den Linden, Berlin
Selling Democracy presents 42 films divided into 10 programs. More detail on each film can be found in the alphabetical listing entitled Film Notes. All films in B&W, unless otherwise noted.
Selling Democracy: Your $80 Dollars
Friday, 6 February 16:30
The opening day is a remarkable sampler: 4 films that introduce the goals of the Marshall Plan, and showcase various communication strategies. Me and Mr. Marshall (13’), one of the very earliest films, and Hansi and the 200,000 Chicks (15’), one of the most charming, use a “personal” style to make the Marshall Plan seem accessible and valuable to individuals. More journalistic in style, Your Eighty Dollars (27’) is the only film made strictly for American audiences -- to explain how their $80 dollars were being spent abroad. It is literally a lesson in the importance of “selling Democracy,” only this time to the folks back home. The Hour of Choice (21’), made during the MSA period, weaves the threat of Communism in and out, showing its hand as a work of propaganda.
* Opening remarks by Festival Director Dieter Kosslick and special guests
Welcome Mr. Marshall!
Saturday, 7 February 17:00
Welcome Mr. Marshall (Bienvenido Senor Marshall) (95’). Its welcoming title notwithstanding, this film is not a Marshall Plan film, but rather a parody of the Marshall Plan. Spain, under the Franco dictatorship, was not offered Marshall aid, so Spanish director Luis Garcia Berlanga concocted an exhuberant comedy in which an entire town rehearses for a rumored visit by Marshall himself. By the time the villagers have created their own Potemkin village, they realize they no longer need the aid. This is satire at its most delightful.
The Home We Love: Out of the Ruins
Sunday, 8 February 17:00
This third program reveals the heart of the European Recovery Program, the official name for phase one of the Marshall Plan. Europe was in ruins. Victor and vanquished were hungry and without employment or shelter. In The Home We Love (15’), Life and Death of a Cave City (12’), Return from the Valley (15’), Island of Faith (20’) The Invisible Link (13’), and Town Without Water (13’), Marshall Plan filmmakers tell the stories of people in France, Greece, Holland, Austria and Italy who rebuild their lives. The artistry of these films makes each feel like a mini-feature, with marvelous cinematography, editing, music and “acting.” Even hard-boiled students of propaganda technique may find themselves wiping a tear.
Germany: It’s Up To You!
Monday, 9 February 17:00
The re-integration of Germany into a united Europe represented a challenge of awesome proportions for the Allies; Letters from the time attest to the difficult task of public re-education. Two significant films made by the film unit of the Office of Military Government/U.S. in Berlin, were The Lessons of Nuremberg (76’) and /t’s Up To You! (Es Liegt an Dir) (20’). Nurnberg takes viewers through the trial, as prosecutors from France, England, Russia and the U.S. make their case against the members of the Nazi High Command. With prosecutions for “crimes against humanity” unfolding in South Africa, Rwanda, The Hague, and Iraq, it is fascinating to examine the very first war crimes trial. If Nuremberg was an attempt to close the book of judgment, /t’s Up To You! was an attempt to open a new book. The pages are blank; it is up to the German people to inscribe their vision for the future…
Nation Out of Darkness: The Marshall Plan at Work in Germany
Tuesday, 10 February 17:00
The films in this program -- Hunger (10’), City Out of Darkness (10’), The Marshall Plan at Work in Germany (12’), Air of Freedom (12’), Between East and West (Zwischen Ost und West) (22’) -- document the heroic effort of manpower, money, organization, will, and spirit required to re-build Germany and feed its people after the war. Hunger was so controversial that it was pulled from theaters. (see footnore 2). Air of Freedom (12’) tells the stirring story of the founding of RIAS, Berlin’s signature radio station. As if re-construction were not hard enough, Stalin suddenly upped the ante by putting a noose around Berlin. Die Brucke dramatizes the breaking of the embargo by Allied planes that fueled and fed Berlin in 30-second intervals. This film is a must for every Berliner (including all those who, like JFK, are Berliners in spirit), and for anyone else who has never seen the airlift story before.
Breakthrough: The Marshall Plan in Action
Wednesday, 11 February 17:00
One of the great post-war challenges was the building of electric power plants and dams. Breakthrough (18’) eloquently documents the achievement in Norway. But breakthroughs took all sorts of forms, and the Marshall Plan filmmakers used a variety of techniques to communicate them. Including the newsreel format. ERP in Action (11’) was a monthly series produced during 1950. No 2 was selected because it shows the historic moment when Germany was accepted into the Marshall Plan. Another series was called “The Marshall Plan at Work in…,” 12 newsreels also produced during 1950. The Marshall Plan at Work in Ireland (12’), much of it set in Dublin, is fun and unique in that it focuses on tourism. The independent city/state of Trieste, now part of Italy, was an international crossroads that merited its own aid program. Free City (10’) dissects the life of this metropolis, newly buzzing with commerce, including black market trades. This program ends with one of the most highly regarded films in the Marshall Plan repertoire: the Dutch production Houen Zo (21’). A symphony of images and music about the rewewed city of Rotterdam, it was awarded a prize at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival.
Let’s Be Childish: There’s Hope for the Young
Thursday, 12 February 17:00
There’s hope for the young, if not for their parents. That thought might well have been in the minds of the Marshall Plan filmmakers, for they made many films (among the best in the entire collection) in which the central character is a young boy or girl. These films tend to use non-actors, but the script is written and the action choreographed as though it were a mini-feature. Leave your cynicism at the door, and let yourself be enchanted. These are the ones that will make you laugh, and/or bring a tear to your eye. A Marshall Plan tanker unloads a cargo of gigantic American mules in a Greek harbor, and one little boy manages to yoke it to his family’s tiny donkey in The Story of Koula (21’). An Austrian girl scandalizes her parents by using new-fangled techniques to lay Traudls new Vegitable Garden (15’). Inspired by a report on the American 4-H clubs for young farmers, a boy raises a prize calf in Project for Tomorrow (20’). At a chic Alpine ski resort, where families from all over Europe are vacationing, it’s the children who lead their elders in Let’s Be Childish (20’).
Cooperation….or Else: Strength for the Free World
Friday, 13 February 17:00
The invasion of Korea cut short phase one of the Marshall Plan (the European Recovery Program). ERP films had been primarily focused on food, shelter, employment and morale. A somewhat darker view of the future imbued phase two of the Marshall Plan (the Mutual Security Administration). Although MSA filmmakers would still make a number of optimistic “ERP-type” films, one notes a marked increase in films that express anti-Communist themes and that stress the virtues of political unity and military strength. Whitsun Holiday (14’) is a clever piece of propaganda that contrasts the way Western Bloc and Eastern Bloc citizens spend their leisure time. With hindsight, it is interesting to see how the Marshall Plan gave rise to European union. Council of Europe (28’) is an amusing, yet serious, look behind the scenes. The translators’ little dramas are intercut with historic footage of the European leaders addressing the Council. The English-language version is narrated by singer/dancer Gene Kelly. A Gun for Gaetano (27’) plays like an absurdist war movie. The battle scenes are frighteningly real; yet the soldiers train to a jazzy soundtrack. Nicht Storen Funktionarsversammlung (Do Not Disturb Meeting in Progress) (16’) purports to be a film report on economic progress in the German Democratic Republic, but its put-down of all things Western vividly and hilariously demonstrates just the opposite. It stars the inimitable Walter Gross, a famous German comic at the time, as the party functionary. International audiences may not get all the references, but German viewers should “pee their pants,” so to speak.
The Changing Face of Europe: It’s Truly Animated
Saturday, 14 February 17:00
The Marshall Plan blazed the trail towards European Union. U.S. and European policy makers apparently agreed on the need to lower trade tariffs within Europe, but this required a whole education effort of its own. Perhaps because cartoons made economics seem more fun and economic theory easier to swallow, animation came to the rescue. The star of this show is The Shoemaker and the Hatter (17’), a cartoon parable about the virtues of a common market, and a work of art. Transatlantic (10’) extols the same virtues of free trade, this time between Europe and the U.S. Animation was also an effective technique for handling material that was politically sensitive, as seen in the anti-Communist-themed Without Fear(Ohne Furcht) (15’). Tom Schuler Cobbler/Statesman (27’) starts out as an appealing portrait of a shoemaker, turned soldier, turned delegate to the first American congress. This lesson in the tri-partite structure of the U.S. government becomes a long essay on the American system of “checks and balances” that will exasperate some and enlighten others. This animated shorts program is completed by Story of a Rescue (Freundschaft ohne Grenzen) (7’) and Trois Hommes au Travail (Three Men at Work) (8’), both about unemployment.
True Fiction: The Marshall Plan Film Auteurs on Parade
Sunday, 15 February 17:00
In this final program, we present three of the true fiction films made for the Marshall Plan. Professional actors carry the main roles, the films are fully scripted, and the actors speak the dialogue. Each has a sophisticated mise-en-scene, including distinctive cinematography. The Smiths and the Robinsons (19’) produced and written by Philip Mackie, is the story of two neighbors in post-War London. Each man and wife covets what the other couple enjoys in one case a car, in the other a television. Their envy is never expressed publicly; they are unfailingly polite rivals in the great climb up the ladder of prosperity. And then one day, the two men are called back into the Army reserve. What is lovely about this film is not the militaristic note on which it ends, but the sly wit with which it charts the two couples’ attitudes towards each other, and its subtle commentary on the blurring of class differences in a brave new, post-War, world. Jour de Peine (A Tough Day) (30’), directed by Victor Vicas, is an hommage to the struggle of French factory workers trying to organize a strike for better wages. Though the same story has been told many times since the Industtrial Revolution, Vicas imbues it with great humanity. The Promise of Barty O’Brien (39’), directed by George Freedland, was made in collaboration with the actors of the Abbey Theater in Dublin. It tells the story of a young man with a wild-eyed hunger to learn about electricity while his father wants him to farm their land. Years pass, during which the young man saves and studies and fulfills his dream of becoming an electrical engineer. One day he goes home, bringing the modern world to his small corner of Ireland. His father barely greets him. Undaunted, he strings electric and telephone lines. With the house ablaze in light, the rest of the family gathers round to witness the miracles, and finally the father relents.
So concludes this historic rediscovery of Marshall Plan films. See you at the Zeughauskino.