Orson Welles Narrates an Animated Parable About How Xenophobia & Greed Will Put America Into Decline (1971)

More than 40 years and sev­en pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tions have passed since Orson Welles nar­rat­ed Free­dom Riv­er. And although it shows signs of age, the ani­mat­ed film, a para­ble about the role of immi­gra­tion, race, and wealth in Amer­i­ca, still res­onates today. Actu­al­ly, giv­en the cyn­i­cal exploita­tion of xeno­pho­bia dur­ing this most unpres­i­den­tial of pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns, you could say that Free­dom River strikes a big­ger chord than it has in years. That’s why, after a five year hia­tus, we’re fea­tur­ing the ani­ma­tion once again on Open Cul­ture.

The back­sto­ry behind the film deserves a lit­tle men­tion. Accord­ing to Joseph Cavel­la, a writer for the film, it took a lit­tle cajol­ing and per­se­ver­ance to get Orson Welles involved in the film.

For sev­er­al years, Bosus­tow Pro­duc­tions had asked Orson Welles, then liv­ing in Paris, to nar­rate one of their films. He nev­er respond­ed. When I fin­ished the Free­dom Riv­er script, we sent it to him togeth­er with a portable reel to reel tape recorder and a siz­able check and crossed our fin­gers. He was either des­per­ate for mon­ey or (I would rather believe) some­thing in it touched him because two weeks lat­er we got the reel back with the nar­ra­tion word for word and we were on our way.

Indeed, they were.

Direct­ed by Sam Weiss, Free­dom Riv­er tells the sto­ry of decline–of a once great nation laps­ing into ugli­ness. Despite the myths we like to tell our­selves here in Amer­i­ca, the ugli­ness has always been there. Xeno­pho­bia, greed, racism (you could add a few more traits to the list) are noth­ing new. They just tend to sur­face more dur­ing hard times, or when dem­a­gogues make it per­mis­si­ble, which is pre­cise­ly what we’re see­ing right now. For­tu­nate­ly, Orson Welles’s nar­ra­tion leaves us with room to hope, with room to believe that wis­dom will pre­vail and that peo­ple will find bet­ter options than what the provo­ca­teurs have to offer.

You can find Free­dom Riv­er in the the Ani­ma­tion sec­tion of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Fol­low Open Cul­ture on Face­book and Twit­ter and share intel­li­gent media with your friends. Or bet­ter yet, sign up for our dai­ly email and get a dai­ly dose of Open Cul­ture in your inbox. And if you want to make sure that our posts def­i­nite­ly appear in your Face­book news­feed, just fol­low these sim­ple steps.

Relat­ed Con­tent

Orson Welles Names His 10 Favorite Films: From Chaplin’s City Lights to Ford’s Stage­coach

Watch Orson Welles’ The Stranger Free Online, Where 1940s Film Noir Meets Real Hor­rors of WWII

Orson Welles Explains Why Igno­rance Was His Major “Gift” to Cit­i­zen Kane

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • jax says:

    Sad­ly, Orson Welles’­para­ble about Xeno­pho­bia + greed is still more per­ti­nent than ever before! This should be be trans­lat­ed and shown world­wide in schools + Par­lia­ments alike.
    Thank you Mr Welles + we are tru­ly sor­ry to have allowed this to hap­pen under our watch. Some­thing has to change.

  • Mary Healey says:

    Until we all under­stand that Mod­er­a­tion is the key that makes life “good for all”we will engage in what “ism” is best. Mod­er­a­tion is the key for any Democ­ra­cy to endure.
    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we are still going through attempts to thwart this ide­al with a push for author­i­tar­i­an­ism by our Pres­i­dent
    To solve this “ism and pre­vent it from becom­ing our new form of gov­ern­ment requires a very stream­lined focus on the goal of our democ­ra­cy: the good for all , If the focus is one Par­ty over the oth­er we could find our­selves unit­ed , not by our own doing( but unit­ed under a tyrant!!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.