Inter-American Affairs Films
“Good Neighbor” Films: Productions of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy, and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter American Affairs (OCIAA), under the direction of Nelson Rockefeller, sought to boost political and economic relations between the U.S. and Latin American nations. Before the Second World War broke out, this public relations campaign worked to improve relations and counteract an imperialist image of the U.S. prevailing the south. Soon after the war began the OCIAA quickly shifted its priorities toward working to assure hemispheric solidarity, and preventing South American nations from any undue alliances with the Axis. In late 1941 a program of motion picture production and distribution by the OCIAA commenced, intending to use films to “show the truth about the American Way” to southern nations, and to foster feelings of allegiance between the north and south.
Colorful travelogues in Central America, such as Ralph Gray's Hill Towns of Guatemala and Sundays In the Valley of Mexico are simply produced short films, appearing almost to be amateur travel films, with voice-over narration commenting admiringly on the ancient customs and dress of villagers around Lake Aititlan, Guatemala, and the bullfights of Mexico City.
While the subject of war is elided in many of the OCIAA films, the valuable strategic position of the Galapagos Islands in defending the Panama Canal is emphasized in This Is Ecuador as well as the contributions of the Brazilian Air Force in defending Atlantic shipping routes in Wings Over Brazil.
The Walt Disney animation studios has been recognized for its contributions during World War II as the only Hollywood studio designated a "key war production plant" and an "essential indusry" to the national war effort. Aside from providing animations for many training films, such as the maritime navigation lessons in The Halifax Incident, Disney produced Good Neighbor films for both domestic and southern audiences. The Amazon Awakens (not included in this exhibit) portrays the modernization and resource extraction valuable to war industries going on throughout the Amazon basin, with a section extolling the successes of Henry Ford's rubber plantation company town, Fordlandia. Water: Friend or Enemy? (not included in this exhibit) delivered a public health message to communities without modern plumbing and sanitation, using the dual appeal of Technicolor and the signature Disney animation style.