This landmark series, presented by PFA and Goethe-Institut San Francisco in association with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Schulberg Productions, features twenty-five films made in Europe by the Marshall Plan's Motion Picture Section and by the Documentary Film Unit of the U.S. Office of Military Government (OMGUS) after World War II. It is a fascinating cross-section of the more than 250 films originally produced to hasten the reconstruction of Europe and to encourage the democratization of Germany. Embodying “the largest peacetime propaganda effort directed by one country to a group of others ever seen,” according to Marshall Plan scholar David Ellwood (author of Rebuilding Europe), these films illustrate in surprisingly specific terms the strategy implemented by the Truman Administration for “winning the peace.”
The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, or ERP) provided billions of dollars in aid to postwar Europe. By the end of 1951, in response to concerns about the perceived threat of Communism and the impact of the Korean War, the Marshall Plan's focus shifted to European security and military issues. Against the backdrop of current U.S. efforts to democratize Iraq and Afghanistan, the films of the Marshall Plan have particular resonance.
Because of a 1948 law that prohibited the propagandizing of American citizens, only a few of these films have ever been seen in the United States. In 1990, Senator John Kerry introduced legislation overturning the ban, and this is the first public showcase of the films in the Bay Area.
Each screening will be introduced by program curator Sandra Schulberg and followed by an informal discussion. The daughter of Marshall Plan Motion Picture Chief Stuart Schulberg, Sandra Schulberg is an accomplished movie producer in her own right (Quills, Undisputed), as well as founding director of the Independent Feature Project and a cofounder of First Run Features. She is currently president of Phobos Entertainment and publisher of Phobos Books.
We hope you will join us for a Marshall Plan symposium, “Selling Democracy: Productivity and Propaganda in the Service of American Foreign Policy,” on Friday, November 18, in the PFA Theater.
An illustrated program booklet complementing the series will be available at the box office.
To consult a list of all known Marshall Plan films, see www.MarshallFilms.org. For historical background on the making and distribution of the films, please visit www.sellingdemocracy.org.