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To Tell the Truth: The Strategy of Truth
Directed by David Van Taylor
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THE STRATEGY OF TRUTH explores the role of film as propaganda during World War II, and the different forms it took in the US, the UK, and Germany. It also raises the central question of whether a film can be both documentary - reflecting the truth - and propaganda.

As the first major war was about to unfold on celluloid, documentarians around the globe were enlisted into the causes of their nations - causes that were not always easy to sell.
How would you convince Germans that "the Jewish problem" requires a "Final Solution"? Or bring class-bound Britons together as equal partners to endure and combat an unprecedented Blitz? And what would galvanize isolationist Americans - and Black soldiers faced with Jim Crow laws - to defend a patch of land thousands of miles from home?
In Germany, Leni Riefenstahl's TRIUMPH OF THE WILL not only promoted the Nazi ideals but was also posed to become a landmark of propaganda filmmaking.
In the UK, the government first turned to newsreel directors to create propaganda, sidelining left-leaning anti-fascist filmmakers. After early failures, the Crown Film Unit called in established documentarians such as Harry Watt, Pat Jackson, and Humphrey Jennings. Their films cast the working person as hero, creating a sense of collective heroism and shared purpose.
Last into the war, the US launched perhaps the biggest and most sophisticated campaign. A mix of seasoned documentarians and Hollywood heavy-hitters such as Frank Capra discovered how to use Nazi propaganda against itself. The resulting "strategy of truth" was aimed at highlighting the American way of life while promoting democracy.
But one of the challenges facing Washington's new Office of War Information was that that face was completely white. Enter Carlton Moss, an African-American technical advisor who would become the mastermind behind THE NEGRO SOLDIER. Recounting the history of black American soldiers to the present, the film was a milestone that was shown in theatres and schools across the country. 
Featuring a wealth of archival footage from the British, German, and American propaganda effort, along with interviews with insightful film historians and veterans of the celluloid war effort, this film illuminates the complicated relationship between propaganda and documentary.

"For those doubting the power of documentaries to have a social impact, TO TELL THE TRUTH should give them an idea."—Andy Webster, NEW YORK TIMES "Week Ahead"

"A very important non-fiction series ... Fascinating ... Probing ... Two must-see documentary-on-documentary episodes."—Jennifer Merin, ABOUT.COM GUIDE TO DOCUMENTARIES

"What a great idea ... About nonfiction filmmaking, but that's just the through-line ... This series is a new way of looking at history."—Tom Roston, DOC SOUP

"Captivating and enlightening, The Strategy of Truth is an outstanding resource for courses in film history, mass communication, and political science. It is also an excellent selection for academic and public libraries."—Educational Media Reviews Online

2015 Stranger Than Fiction, IFC Center NY
Official Selection, DOC NYC Festival at IFC Center, New York City

56 minutes / Color
Release: 2013
Copyright: 2012

For individual consumers (home video)

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This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
African-Americans, Film History, Historiography, History (U.S.), History (World), World War II

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