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Will the Real Documentary Please Stand Up

October 30, 2016 | By Public Programs Staff

Two NEH-funded films about the history of documentary filmmaking will air on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in early November. The respective films, To Tell the Truth: Working for Change and To Tell the Truth: The Strategy of Truth, will anchor separate evenings of programming devoted to the history of non-fiction filmmaking.

To Tell the Truth: Working for Change, which airs on Wednesday, November 2, examines the documentaries of the Film and Photo League members and other politically engaged filmmakers. These films depict social conditions in America during the Great Depression and present alternatives to glossy Hollywood films and newsreels. TCM will follow To Tell the Truth: Working for Change by showing several of the films discussed in the documentary, including Leo Hurwitz’s Native Land (1942) and Pare Lorentz’s The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936).

To Tell the Truth: The Strategy of Truth will air the following Wednesday, November 9. This film explores the role of film as propaganda during World War II and surveys different styles of documentary production in the United States, England, and Germany. Following To Tell the Truth: The Strategy of Truth, TCM will screen classic 1940s documentaries such as The Autobiography of a Jeep (1943) and The Negro Soldier (1944).

Both To Tell the Truth documentaries feature rare film clips and exclusive interviews with leading filmmakers and scholars. To Tell the Truth was directed by Cal Skaggs and David Van Taylor and produced by Ali Pomeroy. Pomeroy passed away from cancer in 2015. Early screenings of To Tell the Truth were dedicated to her.

To Tell the Truth received three grants for a television series on the history of non-fiction film.