Directed by David Van Taylor • Documentary • 2012 • 56 minutes
THE STRATEGY OF TRUTH: DOCUMENTARY GOES TO WAR (1933-1945)
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, for example, 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?
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, in what one film historian calls a bit of cinematic jiu-jitsu. The resulting 'strategy of truth' was aimed at highlighting the American way of life while promoting democracy. Featuring a wealth of archival footage from the British, German, and American propaganda 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'