Re-Viewing Marshall Plan Films and Photographs about Greece

During a rather short period (1948-1952) and as part of the cultural propaganda of the Marshall Plan, the European Film Unit sponsored approximately 300 documentary and informational films, alongside press releases, posters, photographs, and exhibitions. Scholarship has recognised this as “the greatest international propaganda/information programme ever seen in peace-time”. Films about each of the 16 Western European countries that received US aid after the Second World War were produced in multi-lingual versions intended for both national and transnational exhibition. Of special interest are the films about Greece, especially the ones whose cinematic narrative is framed by references to ancient Greece with the camera seamlessly moving from ruins of the classical antiquity to modern ones that the Marshall Plan aid re-builds. After almost 50 years, Marshall Plan Films have resurfaced to the public sphere. Having been for long buried and forgotten in various US and Western European film archives, since 2006 Marshall Plan films have attracted interest in film festivals and the academic community thanks to the touring programme ‘Selling Democracy’   The relevance of these films has been accentuated since 2008 with the economic crisis in the Eurozone. And digitisation projects of Marshall Plan films and photographs are currently being undertaken to inform and educate future audiences about the first visual campaign to propagate European reconstruction and co-operation. My paper will discuss two lines of enquiry: first, I will analyse and contextualise indicative examples of films and photographs where obsolescence and renewal play against each other in images ideologically dressed with a utilitarian discourse of rational progress and liberal humanism which uses classical antiquity as a propaganda vehicle; and secondly, I will reflect on the historicity of the old and new ways of viewing and understanding the meanings of the Marshall Plan iconography and its referencing of classical antiquity.


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