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American Documentary Showcase Continues Its Cultural Diplomacy Mission Around the World

By Tom White

The American Documentary Showcase was launched in 2009 as a cultural diplomacy program funded by, and in cooperation with, the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State. Over the past 18 months, the Showcase, curated and administered by the University Film and Video Association (UFVA), with IDA as a presenting partner, has toured nearly 50 documentaries to 25 countries. Under the auspices of the US Embassies in the respective countries, delegations of American filmmakers and film experts have introduced screenings and developed and conducted seminars and workshops on the art and business of filmmaking, presenting at a variety of schools, media arts centers and festivals.

The Showcase is intended to demonstrate the role documentary plays in fostering understanding and cooperation. To that end, the films chosen for this past year have explored such topics as the democratic process, immigration, the environment, ethnic diversity and education.

The 2010 delegations have included Scott Hamilton Kennedy (The Garden), to Ecuador; Kim Snyder (Welcome to Shelbyville), to Nigeria; and Ben Niles (Note By Note) to Paraguay.  In addition, Rocky Otoo, the subject of Yoni Brook and Musa Syeed's Bronx Princess, traveled recently to Zimbabwe. Other countries that have hosted Showcase delegations this year have included Rwanda, Bahrain, Honduras and Poland, with additional delegations scheduled to travel to Egypt, Mongolia, Kenya, Namibia and Vietnam, among other countries.

The delegation to Russia, which leaves September 8, includes the films No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos, by James Chressanthis, about legendary cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond and how they escaped from Hungary during the 1956 Soviet crackdown to forge impressive careers in Hollywood; and How to Fold a Flag, by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, about how American veterans are coping with life after returning from serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan . Both films will be featured at the   Pacific Meridian Festival in Vladivostok and the Show US! Film Festival in Moscow. Chressanthis will also conduct workshops and seminars with Russian filmmakers, while Stuart Wilf, a veteran featured in How to Fold A Flag, will answer questions after screenings and meet with students and faculty members at the Russian State University for the Humanities, the public and the press. 

Other Showcase films that will be screened as part of the delegation to Russia include Beginning Filmmaking (Dir.: Jay Rosenblatt); Traces of the Trade (Dir.: Katrina Browne); The People's President (Dir.: Chuck Workman); The Hobart Shakespeareans (Dir.: Mel Stuart); The Order of Myths (Dir.: Margaret Brown); Craft in America (Exec. Prod.: Carol Sauvignon); Note By Note (Dir.: Ben Niles); One Bridge to the Next (Dir.: Kim Snyder) and A Fair to Remember (Dirs.: Allen Mondell and Cynthia Salzman Mondell).

"These films offer a broad, diversified look at life in the United States and the values of a democratic society as seen by independent filmmakers, who are free to express their opinions," says Project Director Betsy McLane, Ph.D.

For more about the American Documentary Showcase, click here.