Truth, propaganda, or a little of both?

The young man referenced in Corry's review. Were his comments intentional propaganda?

On Monday, we will watch very brief clips from the documentary Vacation Nicaragua (Clearfield, 1986). As one synposis explains, “Director Anita Clearfield brought her cameras and crew along on a trip with 25 ordinary Americans as they toured Nicaragua to learn more about the country’s people and culture. The result is this interesting

Dark clouds drift across the moon.

documentary. There was no political agenda in the beginning of the film and after a session with the anti-Sandinista U.S. Congressman Richard Cheney, the tourists then go out to meet people on their own. The effect of what they learn changes their opinion on U.S. involvement in Central America — they uniformly feel, at the end of their tour, that Uncle Sam should keep to his own family at home.”

Writing for the Los Angeles Times in October, 1986, Michael Wilmington notes “You get an eerie retrospective twinge. Suppose, back during the height of the Vietnam War, someone had shot a film called “Holiday in Vietnam”–with 25 all-American vacationers, hiking through Hue, watching surfers off the Gulf of Tonkin, and gathering around to sing “All You Need Is Love” to Ho Chi Minh? Would it have been cause for outrage? Or would it have seemed trivial?”

The following year, New York Times reviewer John Corry characterized the film as classic propaganda, noting — as one example — the documentary’s attention to an idealistic young high school student:

“Summing up what a good time he had on vacation, for example, one young man says that before he visited Nicaragua, he was ready to sell out, apparently by going to college and studying a profession. Now, he says, he feels ‘less selfish’. ”History will now change,” the voice says while dark clouds drift across the moon, accompanied by Latin music. ”Perhaps it shall simply be called people,” the voice continues. ”Perhaps it shall simply be called life, perhaps revolution, truth, justice – perhaps, simply, Nicaragua.”

In the final sentences of his review, Corry returns to “the young man who says he is now less selfish, and then we get the oracular voice and the moon. ” Despite his criticisms, the reviewer concludes that Vacation Nicaragua “is imaginatively and even brilliantly done. Someday it should find its way into a museum as a classic in video propaganda. If there is no other reason, you ought to see it for that alone.”

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