Selling Democracy presents 25 films divided into 5 programs. The first program takes place at Alice Tully Hall, and all the others at the Walter Reade Theater. Each screening at the Walter Reade will be followed by an informal Q&A session with Marshall Plan film historians. At 6:30pm on Friday, October 15, a panel of distinguished print and television journalists will discuss the concept of "selling democracy" in the context of current political events. A closing night reception follows.


Monday, October 11, 2004, at 12:30pm
Alice Tully Hall

Selling Democracy opens with a remarkable sampler that includes Me and Mr. Marshall (1949, supervised by Stuart Schulberg for OMGUS), the first film to describe the impact of Marshall aid, told from the point of view of a young German coal miner; The Shoemaker and the Hatter (1950, John Halas & Joy Batchelor with Philip Stapp), a delightful cartoon about the joys and wisdom of free trade; Your Eighty Dollars, a film made strictly for American audiences to explain how their $80 dollars were being spent abroad - literally a lesson in the importance of "selling democracy," only this time to the folks back home; The Story of Koula (1951, Vittorio Gallo), in which 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; and Whitsun Holiday (1953, Peter Baylis), a wickedly clever piece of propaganda, contrasting the way Western Bloc and Eastern Bloc citizens enjoy their leisure time, that typifies the Marshall Plan’s attitude towards the Cold War.


Thursday, October 14, at 3pm and 7:15pm Walter Reade Theater

The reconstruction of Germany was vital, not only because of its geographical and economic importance but also as a way of demonstrating solidarity with the German people. It’s Up to You! (1948, Wolfgang Kiepenheuer for OMGUS) details the forces that led to the Nazi takeover, challenging Germans to reject the past and move forward as free citizens. Between West and East (Zwischen West und Ost, 1949) captures the drama of Berlin from the end of WWII through the thrilling airlift that saved at least half the city from Communist domination. One in a series of twelve films produced all over Europe, The Marshall Plan at Work in Western Germany (1950) provides an overview of ERP aid, including a report on the growing refugee problem. The restoration of electric power to the civilian population and for industrial production is the focus of both City Out of Darkness (1950, Merkurius Film), which features a dramatic "film noir" opening sequence and beautiful shots below Berlin's streets, and of The Invisible Link (1950, Victor Vicas), which features stunning footage of the massive Kaprun Dam in Austria.


Thursday, October 14, at 5pm and 9:15pm Walter Reade Theater

A classic of Marshall Plan filmmaking, The Home We Love is the story of the rebirth of Mazamet, a famous wool-processing town in France, told with affection and dry humor by one of the town’s oldest residents. Town Without Water starts with harsh shots of parched earth, then follows the construction of a pipeline (made possible through ERP aid) that brings fresh water into town for the first time ever. While economic recovery was the top priority, Marshall Plan films geared for Italian and French audiences also tackled ideology. Mixing dramatic sequences with newsreel footage, The Struggle for Men's Minds chronicles the efforts to beat back the Communist influence that surged following the attempted assassination of party leader Palmero Togliatti in Italy. The Other Paris depicts the need for a democratic union movement. Aquila (1950) is a kind of Marshall Plan re-make of The Bicycle Thief (only now with a happy ending) that focuses on the temptations - crime and Communism - that beset an unemployed worker. In this beautiful, lyrical film, the story is told through the wordless actions of the actors and a magnificent score.
Friday, October 15, at 3pm and 7:30 pm Walter Reade Theater

Many of the most effective Marshall Plan films couched their messages in eloquent portraits of people struggling to rebuild lives shattered by war. Island of Faith (1950), directed by Joris Ivens' collaborator John Ferno, movingly documents the efforts of the Dutch to reclaim their land from the sea after the dikes were destroyed. The Cannes Festival award-winner Houen Zo (1952) - a crane operator’s term, meaning "Steady as you go" – is a symphony of sound and images about the reconstruction of Rotterdam. With powerful camerawork and editing, Breakthrough (1950, Lauritz Falk) dramatizes the rebuilding of a hydroelectric complex sabotaged by the Norwegians to prevent the Nazis from using it. In The Living Stream, award-winning filmmaker Arne Sucksdorff creates a visual poem in celebration of Scandinavian cooperation. Free City (1950, Romolo Marcellini) captures the flavor of life in the disputed city of Trieste, perched on the border between Italy and Yugoslavia, and a hub for smuggling and black-market currency trading. E.R.P. in Action, No. 5 (1950), a monthly newsreel, takes the audience on a tour of 8 countries getting aid, and includes a sequence on the Marshall Plan poster competition (examples of which grace this catalogue). Its rousing opening montage typifies the "can-do" spirit that Marshall Plan filmmakers imbued in war-weary citizens.


Friday, October 15, at 5pm and 9:30pm Water Reade Theater

Hunger (a film made by OMGUS during the run-up to the Marshall Plan film program) opens with a montage of hungry people. We imagine we're in Germany, but it’s soon clear we're looking at Paris, London and Naples. Made to show German audiences that they were not the only ones suffering, the film caused such a furor it was pulled from German theaters. By 1950, the first phase of Marshall aid was reaping benefits, and the various economies were starting to chug along. Let’s Be Childish (1950, George Freedland) represents that surge of optimism – a belief on the part of the Marshall Planners that there was at least hope for the young, if not for their parents. This charming film is set at an alpine resort where families gather from all over Europe. The Babel of languages boils over into conflict, but then resolves into a vision of a united Europe with the children leading the way. The Korean War cast a shadow over Europe, and the Marshall Plan films take a darker turn thereafter. The Hour of Choice (1951, Stuart Legg) clearly outlines the European integration strategy that Marshall Planners were pushing, seen as the best defense against the Soviet threat. Persuasion gives way to a more heavy-handed approach in Without Fear (1951, Peter Sachs), a striking piece of animation. Students of propaganda technique will appreciate the tide of Technicolor red engulfing Europe. The Smiths and the Robinsons (1952, Philip Mackie) pokes fun at two British couples who dream about the day they can enjoy modern luxuries like cars and televisions; instead they have to spend their free time on civil defense training. This is one of the few "true fiction" films made by the Marshall Plan, and a witty one.

See you at the cinema!

Press Release