In March, 1942 Orson Welles went to Rio de Janeiro, with 4,500 pounds of Technicolor film equipment and 50,000 feet of film to make part of what was to be his next movie, It’s All True. Nelson Rockefeller, who was working in the Roosevelt administration as Coordinator of the Office of Inter-American Affairs, provided government money to subsidize RKO for the effort, to the tune of $300,000. Rockefeller was a member of the RKO board. The Office of Inter-American Affairs had been conceived as a means of spreading propaganda in the other American republics in favor of those countries joining the United States as Allies against Germany, Japan and Italy. With the loss of most of its European markets after the U.S. entered the war, Hollywood was very much interested in promoting its business in Latin America, as several films with Latin themes that were produced at that time show.
Three segments of It’s All True were actually filmed. One, My Friend Bonito, had been filmed in 1941 in Mexico and was about a young boy and his bull. The other two segments were filmed in Brazil and were The Story of Samba, a documentary about the annual Rio Carnaval, and Four Men on a Raft, a re-enactment of an epic voyage by four poor men from the northeast of Brazil to Rio to protest to the Brazilian government about the situation and working conditions of fishermen from that area.
While Welles was in Brazil, the management of RKO was changing, Welles’ position at the studio was becoming more difficult, and Rockefeller left the Federal government. By the time Welles returned to Hollywood in July, 1942, the project was abandoned.
Richard Wilson, a long time colleague of Welles, planned a documentary about this lost Welles film after footage from it was discovered in 1985. He worked with Bill Krohn, a film journalist; Myron Meisel, a film critic; and Catherine Benamou, an expert in the dialect of Brazil’s northeast. Wilson died in 1991. After his death funding was secured for this film, also titled It’s All True. It was released in October, 1993. I hope you enjoy watching it tonight.