If film is the United States’ biggest cultural export, then it makes perfect sense that the U.S. government would want to share some of our best national treasures with countries around the world.
The American Film Showcase (AFS), a film diplomacy program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and produced by the USC School of Cinematic Arts, sends American documentary and narrative filmmakers, film experts and films to 40 countries, including Egypt, India, Ukraine, Haiti, Brazil, Thailand, Turkey and others.
The goal of the program, which launched in 2011, is to foster understanding and communication across cultures. “By screening American documentaries and independent narratives to international audiences with limited access to that content, we are helping to paint a more nuanced portrait of American life,” said Rachel Gandin Mark, Program Director, American Film Showcase, in an e-mail to Indiewire. “AFS films also serve as a jumping-off point for a local conversation around a featured theme.”
Showcased films are selected through a rigorous review process by senior SCA faculty, prominent American documentary filmmakers, recommendations from AFS partners at the International Documentary Association and Film Independent, AFS staff and are ultimately reviewed and approved by senior ECA representatives.
“Films selected often touch on important issues in contemporary American life including, but not limited to, women and girls’ empowerment, youth empowerment, civil society, diversity, disability rights, LGBT rights and the environment,” said Gandin Mark.
“As a filmmaker lucky to meet thousands of AFS participants in Asia the last two years, I feel I’ve had a front row seat to seeing the extraordinary impact of the U.S. State Department’s film program on people’s understanding of the U.S.,” said AFS envoy and Academy Award and Emmy Award–winning filmmaker Freida Mock in a statement. “Like a ‘citizen diplomat’ I felt that the AFS screenings, for example, of the film ‘Anita’ had achieved something special when an Indian student remarked after discussing sexual assaults: ‘Our two countries have similar problems…’ It’s as if she felt united with us in solving the issues and challenges we all face globally.”
Find out more about the program here.