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The late 40’s is well represented in Danny Wu‘s American: An Odyssey to 1947. Not only is the socio-political climate expertly explored but also we see who the movers and shakers were for the time. That also includes how they affected each other. From the entertainment scene to the White House, the influence feels like something I would watch in a high school Social Studies class.
The reason I was drawn to this work is that I’m a huge fan of Orson Welles. His early life is well accounted for, and while I’m not expecting a complete biography, what’s told covers all the basics and perhaps a little bit more!
David Walsh, writing for the World Socialist Web Site, best sums up the entire film in the press release: “In a short period of time, [Wu] has developed an important understanding of some of the most vexing problems of the mid-20th century.” He also added that this film is evidence that “a new generation of artists, free from the cynicism and many of the prejudices of the past several decades, is emerging.”
To see how it all interrelates is fascinating. It seems Welles became more than a key figure during this era that goes beyond being an actor. He wanted to be a humanitarian, but unfortunately, there were other forces who wanted to force him out of the country! What happened to him is hardly a contrast to what the Japanese felt by the time World War II rolls around–which also gets explored.
In this work that uses mostly archival footage and a few new clips, we also see the changing of the guard, namely in who becomes President of the USA during this time. What’s revealed is enough to get people like me to realise there was peer pressure to get certain people into government more than anything else. Also, we get to see the rise of Facism, and everyone is worried about the influence Adolf Hitler is having on the world over, and when our planet is at war nearly everywhere!
This film also explores lasting problems from previous years leading up to 1947. On the list includes The Great Depression, The Civil Rights Movements, and of course, World War II. To be specific, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki get a significant segment so we hear stories never told before. I was quite invested in the 102 minute film. Instead of being very preachy concerning the topic of racism, the matter-of-fact style narrative keeps it simple.
After all the other films and documentaries I’ve seen which date to this period, the world that I haven’t lived in feels a lot more real now. As a result, I just have to ask, is the worst still yet to come? Is the United States of America better now? Tough to say, since I don’t live there. But if I think about whether I want to move there like Well’s family after seeing the shape of things to come, perhaps not.
4 Stars out of 5