Cast & Crew
Fifteen years after the ravages of World War II destroyed their town, citizens of the small Italian village of Sant'Ambrogio, near Monte Cassino, have rebuilt their fields and houses and now face new challenges of sanitation, education and military service. In the small Haitian community of Fermathe, Georges Mouton, a Belgian United Nations official, works with natives on a project intended to improve agricultural conditions. Despite initial resistance and lack of enthusiasm, the Haitians adapt to the modern agricultural methods taught to them and the community flourishes among a new spirit of cooperation. In Kitimat, British Columbia, a hydroelectrical project is undertaken that involves building a dam and electrical plant that employs thousands of workers from thirty-one different countries. Problems of language and cultural barriers threaten the project, but by working together and realizing that basic problems in life are not insoluble, the project continues. In Kjeller, Norway, after all of the bees in his hive die, a beekeeper visits a nearby nuclear power plant to find out if the nuclear reactor caused the deaths. Physicist Odd Dahl discusses the dangers of radioactivity but also explains peacetime uses of atomic power and assures the man that the death of his bees was not due to his proximity to the plant.
New York Philharmonic
Gian Luigi Polidoro
V. R. Sarma
According to contemporary sources, Power Among Men was divided into four distinct sections respectively filmed in Italy, Haiti, Canada and Norway. According to an article in The Times (London), the film was "punctuated by shots of exquisite statues surviving from the Mayan and other dead civilizations and by indiscriminately destructive atomic explosions."
Some of the sections were preceded by black-and-white documentary footage used to establish historical background or introduce the new footage. According to an April 1959 Saturday Review (of Literature) article, many Italian villagers captured on black-and-white film in 1946 by documentarians Julien Bryan and Victor Vicas, were filmed again for the new color footage. According to various contemporary sources, the only professional actor in the film was the man who portrayed the beekeeper in the Norwegian sequence. Power Among Men was the first feature film made by the United Nations, and was produced under the auspices of the Film Services Division of the United Nations Office of Public Information.
Feature articles on the film in Saturday Review (of Literature) and New Yorker noted that British producer Thorold Dickinson, in collaboration with Czech director Alexander Hammid and Italian director Gian Luigi Polidoro, was the principal architect of the film.
Some contemporary sources referred to the film as American, others listed it as British, while most referred to the country of origin simply as "United Nations." Although some news items prior to the film's distribution in the United States indicated that Marlon Brando was to record a narration for the film's American release, all contemporary reviews and feature articles on the film credit the original narrator, British actor Laurence Harvey, and it is possible that Brando never recorded a new narration.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, in May 1959, the film was awarded New York City College's Robert J. Flaherty Award for "outstanding creative achievement in the documentary film." Although the film had many invitational screenings in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere, was presented at the Berlin Film Festival in June 1959 and had several lengthy and praiseworthy reviews, according to an article on the film in the November 19, 1960 issue of the Catholic magazine Ave Maria, the film was unable to obtain a U.S. distributor. According to the article, the film was, however, being widely shown in schools, churches and motion picture study clubs.