Projections of America is the story of a team of idealistic filmmakers who, during the darkest days of World War II, hoped the power of the movies could reshape the world. As Allied forces liberated Western Europe, the military campaign was accompanied by a vast propaganda effort, and at its center were 26 short documentaries about American life targeted at the newly liberated populations.
The Projections of America films presented American stories – of cowboys and oilmen, farmers and window washers, immigrants and school children – capturing the optimism and messiness of American democracy. The gorgeously crafted films were idealized versions of what America could be, created by politically engaged filmmakers who wanted to fundamentally change America itself while fighting tyranny abroad. The project was headed up by the Academy Award-winning Hollywood screenwriter Robert Riskin, who had written many of Frank Capra’s greatest films. Riskin’s personal and political journey, including his passionate romance with the beautiful movie actress, Fay Wray (King Kong), is the dramatic heart of the story. Teaming up with an improbable collection of brilliant filmmakers – including Josef von Sternberg and John Houseman, as well as many of the giants in the documentary field – Riskin created some of the most indelible images of America ever put to film.
More than a film about filmmaking, Projections of America is a story about the audacity of trying to build a better world in the midst of the most devastating conflict in human history. The emotionally charged story is narrated by the acclaimed actor John Lithgow, and told through rare and evocative archival materials, including pristine new transfers of the “Projections” films themselves, interwoven with interviews with filmmakers, audience members, and film critics. Passionate letters between Robert Riskin and Fay Wray, read by actors, frame this story of war, idealism, and cinema in an unforgettable, personal narrative.
A film by Peter Miller
Narrated by John Lithgow
Based on an idea by Antje Boehmert & Christian Popp Written by Peter Miller Director of Photography Antonio Rossi Editor Amy Linton Sound Recordists Rodolphe Begard, Dan Mazur, Andreas Schlueter, Andy Turret Sound Designer Brit Warner Sound Mixer Christian Riegel Color Grader Knut Schmitz Online Editor Reinaldo Almeida Original Music by Eike Hosenfeld, Moritz Denis, Tim Stanzel Archival Research Elisabeth M. Hartjens, Michelle Gordon, David Stumpp Senior Adviser and Story Consultant Ian Scott Historical Adviser Marja Roholl Associate Producers Jonas Schilling, Amy Linton Commissioning Editors ZDF/ARTE Martin Pieper, Türkân Schirmer Producers Antje Boehmert, Peter Miller, Christian Popp
Spencer Alcorn, Thierry Barreau, Alessandro Carroli, Carmen Cobos, Ned Comstock, Thomas Doherty, EDN, Uta Eberhardt, Andrea Ernst, Sandra Garcia-Myers, Kay Hoffmann, Katja Jaeckel & Giorgos Christonakis, Martine Labonde, Madeleine Le Borgne, Valerie Marcus, Frank Mehring, Ouest France, Miranda Parry, Stephanie Pasternak, Wolfgang Pinkl, Judy Preminger, Victoria Riskin, Kim Rojas, Marja Roholl, Heiner Ross, Christian Schwalbe, Ian Scott, Steven Wapen
Victoria Riskin; National Archives, USA; Allison Collection, MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History; BFI National Archive; Bundesarchiv; Conseil Général de la Manche arch. Dép.; Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie; The Cummington Historical Commission; Deutsche Kinemathek; Philip and Amanda Dunne Photographs Collection of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Getty Images; The Huntington Library; Oren Jacoby; Library of Congress; Heinz Meder; MoMA Film Study Center; New York City Municipal Archives; Michel Ollivier; Miranda Parry; Photofest; Klaus Riemer, Margaret Siebner; SPPN Images; Stadtarchiv Erlangen; Cecile Starr and Aram Boyajian; Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz; UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library, Dept. of Special Collections; L.A. Times Photographic Archives; USC Cinematic Arts Library, Fay Wray Collection ; UN Photo Library; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Willard van Dyke Papers, University of Arizona; Yad Vashem Photo Archive
A co-production of DOCDAYS Productions, Willow Pond Films, ZDF in collaboration with ARTE
Distributed by PBS International – Developed with the support of MEDIA