The Peace Corps Story, A Towering Task
How can you tell the Peace Corps story in a one hour-and-forty seven minutes film? Tell the story of more than 240,000 volunteers spanning 60 years of service? (You know how long people talk just about their two-week European vacation.)
Somehow Director Alana DeJoseph (Mali 1992-94) has managed to tell the story of all of our experiences. It takes an RPCV to get the job done.
The Peace Corps began by President Kennedy in 1961 when he sent young Americans into the developing world not with a rifle, but with a handshake, and that, as we say, has made all the difference.
This film– A Towering Task–tells the stories of these Americans who went from innocent to worldly, from ignorant to enlightened, from strangers to adopted members of their host country families in 141 foreign countries.
Director Alana DeJoseph captured in a thoughtful and not biographical way how these Americans Volunteers traveled overseas to help others and teach strangers and learned more about themselves and the role of America in the world.
Peace Corps Volunteers live in developing countries in what we used to call the ‘grassroots level’. Arriving as naive Americans, they find two years later as they leave that they have been captivated by a country they once had difficulty finding on a map.
A Towering Task is the individual Peace Corps Volunteer story and accurate history of the government agency. Alana DeJoseph tells it “as it was and is” when an Executive Order, that began as a wishful notion in the first days of John F. Kennedy’s administration, proved to be the most lasting and admired achievement of JFK’s brief presidency.
Using the Three Goals of the Peace Corps Act as touchstones in the film, this well-crafted chronicle of the agency, written by Shana Kelly and narrated by Annette Bening, focuses on historical events over the past half-century.
Beautifully photographed with historical footage, featuring news broadcasts going back to the Sixties, as well as present-day in-country film, most of A Towering Task is told in recollections by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers as they reminisce about their own experiences, stories of learning other languages and cultures, stories of successes and failures, and stories of what they learned to make themselves better citizens of America.
While for RPCVs, the film is a “walk down memory lane” it is for everyone else who has never experienced a developing country a cross-cultural experience. By telling the history of the Peace Corps, A Towering Task tells the world who PCVs are and what they achieved by their service.
At this time in our nation when we are experiencing a wave of isolationism and resentment to immigration and other countries, the Peace Corps is an example of the ‘better nature’ of us all. And A Towering Task shows us how we did it.
A Towering Task Director is Alana DeJoseph (Mali 1992-94) who has worked in video and film production for over 30 years. She has worn many hats as producer, director, videographer, and editor, but her heart has always been in documentaries.