From 1941-1945, the educational filmmaker and travel-film lecturer Julien Bryan (1899-1974) produced 23 documentary shorts on Latin American ‘Good Neighbors’ for Nelson Rockefeller’s Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, which distributed them widely across US sites of formal and informal learning during World War II. Although cultural historians in the past twenty years have provided considerable insight into the production mandates of Julien Bryan’s films and their alignment with soft power discourse, the distribution and exhibition history of these shorts remains underexamined. This essay describes my research on this history in its intersection with the longer US history of US non-commercial, and specifically educational, film. Looking at digital governmental and local newspaper archives, non-commercial trade and amateur film magazines, educational film journals and curricula and Julien Bryan’s personal archive at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I trace the travels of these shorts along the circuits of wartime 16mm, examining their appropriation by social studies teachers, Spanish language instructors, art historians, and African American and Latinx activists at universities as sources of Latin American knowledge along a spectrum of ideological perspectives on Pan-Hemispheric relations and ‘Good Neighbor’ understanding.

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Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis

Rabin, Lisa M. (2020). Screening ‘Good Neighbors’: The Educational Uses of Julien Bryan’s Latin American Shorts Along the US Circuits of 16mm, 1940-1947. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 23(1-2), 1–34. doi:10.18146/tmg.589