The U.S. State Department and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts selected 29 films for an international cultural outreach initiative dubbed the “American Film Showcase.” The worldwide series of events, also in conjunction with Film Independent and the International Documentary Association will feature documentaries, narratives, animated shorts and more. The showcase is an extension of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s concept of “smart power diplomacy.” The idea is to showcase U.S. ideals through a range of soft diplomatic tools that “reflect diversity” in contemporary American life.
In addition to screening the 29 films to overseas audiences, the program will involve filmmakers and experts who will participate in lectures, master classes and in other settings focusing on filmmaking, digital technology and emerging media. “American film is a unique way in which we can engage audiences, especially youth, worldwide,” according to a statement by Ann Stock, assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. “For generations, film has opened the doors to dialogue. This international exchange initiative harnesses the power of film. The American Film Showcase brings people together and strengthens those relationships for the benefit of the global community.”
Not all films will necessarily paint a rosy picture of America. Docs including Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc, Josh Fox’s Gasland and Chris Paine’s Who Killed The Electric Car have underlying criticisms of U.S. environmental policy — although the latter film’s follow up Revenge Of The Electric Car about the vehicle’s resurgence in the States also made the list. Only two narrative features made the cut. David Lynch’s 1999 Disney film The Straight Story with Richard Farnsworth and Sissy Spacek will make the journey abroad along with HBO’s Real Women Have Curves directed by Patricia Cardoso and starring America Ferrara, who later played the title character in the ABC series Ugly Betty.