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.