- May 8, 2000
It's All True
Length: 85 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Special Features: None
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 USD
Release Date: November 30, 2004
It’s All True is “based on an unfinished film by Orson Welles.” It’s an interesting endeavor by directors Richard Wilson, Myron Meisel and Bill Krohn to resurrect a lost documentary film by Orson Welles - a film which had a profound effect on the great director and his career.
After Welles stirred Hollywood and the publishing world with Citizen Kane, and while he was in production on The Magnificent Ambersons and in pre-production on Journey into Fear, he was asked by the U.S. State Department to go to Brazil as a cultural ambassador and produce a film for the United States’ anti-Nazi “Good Neighbor Policy.” There were fears inside the U.S. administration that Nazi sympathizers inside some governments in South America may destabilize those governments, and the Good Neighbor Policy was an attempt to quell the Nazi stirrings.
Welles eagerly agreed to produce the film in Brazil. So eager to do the project, he pushed up production on Journey into Fear, shooting that film and Ambersons at the same time, on adjacent soundstages at RKO, so that he could fly to Brazil and make the documentary during the Carnival. He persuaded RKO to provide him with what he needed to edit Ambersons during his stay in Brazil.
Welles endured hazardous location shoots in Brazil, and a local participant was killed in a boating accident while shooting. RKO, which had been managing the project, had a shakeup in the head office as Welles was shooting the documentary, and essentially ceased active support of the project. Welles was forced to shoot without sound, lights and dollies, and shot on a few thousand feet of scrap film which he either brought with him or acquired in South America. Even worse, RKO pulled support for his editing of The Magnificent Ambersons on location, essentially wresting control of the film from him.
After months of arduous shooting, RKO officially pulled the plug on the documentary. Welles, having promised people in Brazil that he would tell the story of their important struggle (in a segment of the documentary called Four Men on a Raft), committed to finish the film on his own - though, sadly, the film would never see a public release.
Welles’ experience in Brazil was almost his undoing. It caused him to go into personal debt, and he lost control of two films that he had shot back in the States. It would take him years to recover from the experience.
This documentary tells the story of the making of It’s All True, and recreates the most important segment of the documentary, Four Men on a Raft, using Welles film footage and notes. The recreation took place in the late 1980’s when the camera negatives were discovered, improperly labeled, in a vault.
The 1993 documentary includes raw footage from the making of The Magnificent Ambersons, Journey Into Fear, and at least two segments of It’s All True. Also included are interviews with Orson Welles, who recalled his experiences in Brazil in later years. The most interesting part of the film is the recreation of Four Men on a Raft, which takes up over half of the documentary.
This is a fascinating look at the making of the original documentary by Orson Welles. I only wish there was more information on how the restoration was done on Welles’ original film. Still, it is an interesting look at a lost film by one of the greatest American directors of all time.
It’s All True is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and offers up a dolby Digital Stereo audio track.
The picture quality is variable, depending on the source elements, which vary in age from about 10 years to 60 years. Bearing in mind that the original film was lost and improperly stored in a vault for 60 years, even the worst quality footage is remarkable. You’ll see dust and scratches on the old footage, and there is some softness as well. Considering the filmstock used and the improper storage, I have no complaints. Actually, I’m really impressed with the quality of the Raft sequence - mostly free of dust and debris and displaying good contrast and black levels.
The more modern footage appears good. The older interviews with Welles are variable, and appear as good as the original elements allow. The color interviews are a bit dark and have a warm appearance, but are acceptable.
The sound is adequate. It consists of mostly dialog and music. The entire raft sequence, shot without sound, is accompanied by music. I don’t know if the music was recorded or chosen by Welles, or if it was added by those who restored the film. The music sounds acceptable, with good frequency response and acceptable clarity. There are some dodgy audio recordings included of Welles speaking of his experiences. I expect these are as good as the source elements allow.
There are no special features.
This film is an excellent choice for Welles fans, and students of film history. I found it to be an engaging story on a couple of levels - first, the troubles Welles had in making the film, and second, the story of the fisherman in the Raft sequence is compelling as well.
This one is definitely recommended.