P R E S S R E L E A S E S 2004
June 2, 2004
Cold War Era Film to Be Screened At MASS MoCA
(North Adams, Mass.) Those who forget the past may be doomed to repeat it, or, as this telling film by director George Erglund suggests, doomed to recognize it in the present. An incendiary political thriller, The Ugly American, which will be screened at MASS MoCA on Friday, July 2, at 9:00 P.M. casts an eerie reflection of American foreign policy both historically and in present-day. Originally made in 1963, the film focuses on Harrison Carter MacWhite, played by Marlon Brando, an ex-journalist turned ambassador to the fictional Southeast Asian country of Sarkhan. MacWhite’s arrogance and impatience blind him to the nation’s underlying resistance to foreign interference as the gripping plot reveals betrayals, shifts in loyalty, and the shady political games played in the name of righteous ideologies. Part of MASS MoCA’s film series, in fair weather the film will be shown outside on MASS MoCA’s 50’ screen in Cinema Courtyard C.
Loosely based on the book of the same title published in 1958 by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick, The Ugly American attempts to draw a parallel between the imagined country of Sarkhan and Southeast Asia during the Cold War, in the midst of two superpowers vying for political dominance. As MacWhite arrives to his new post, he is reunited with an old Sarkhanese friend from World War II, Deong (Ejji Okada), whose unexpected opposition to the American presence reveals MacWhite as uninformed and poorly prepared for the task of protecting and promoting American interests in Sarkhan. In a gesture intended to strengthen the position of Sarkhan’s American-backed government and weaken the threat of Communist influence, MacWhite proposes the building of a “Freedom Road” to the nation’s northern border. Meeting livid protest from Deong and other Sarkhanese who view the road as an act of American imperialism, the situation begins to spin wildly out of control, as the Sarkhanese begin to accept support from Russians and Chinese – the very alliance MacWhite was sent to prevent.
The Ugly American stars Marlon Brando, known for blockbusters such as The Godfather Trilogy (1972) and The Freshman (1990). Kukrit Pramoj who played the Sarkhanese premier in the film and served as a consultant for the movie, later became Thailand’s real-life premier. The film also features Eiji Okada, Pat Hingle, Sandra Church, and Jocelyn Brando.
“Ugly American” has since become a catch-phrase for Americans abroad who are viewed as having little respect or understanding of cultures they visit. With references to the Eisenhower administration’s domino theory (the idea that if one nation fell to Communism, nations in the surrounding region would likewise fall) and the Cold War, The Ugly American forces viewers to reflect on American foreign policy in the past as well as present.
Tickets for Ugly American on Friday, July 2, are $6.50. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams from 11 A.M. until 5 P.M. (closed Tuesdays). In July and August galleries and box office are open 10 – 6 every day. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or purchased on line at www.massmoca.org.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall St. in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings.
For Immediate Release