After 51 years in limbo as one of the most legendary of all ‘lost’ films. Orson Welles’ It’s All True finally emerges in lovingly resurrected partial form within the framework of a documentary about Welles’ entire 1942 Latin American misadventure.
French-backed docu is essentially divided into two parts. First half-hour effectively sketches the events surrounding Welles’ trip to Brazil to shoot a major documentary as part of the US government’s Good Neighbor Policy at the start of World War II. Nearly an hour is then devoted to the presentation of Four Men on a Raft, which was to have been the centerpiece of Welles’ never-finished, multi-part docu.
The scene is set by Welles himself in excerpts from various interviews, as well as by numerous collaborators, including lenser Joseph Biroc, assistants Shifra Haran and Elizabeth Wilson, and associate producer Richard Wilson, who devoted many years to the current project before his death in 1991.
The boy wonder was just 26, flush with the acclaim and controversy of Citizen Kane, when he left for Brazil literally the day after wrapping his second film, The Magnificent Ambersons. Welles wanted to trace the origins of the samba. In the midst of a management change, RKO ordered Welles to stop shooting, and cut 45 minutes out of Ambersons behinds his back.
Offering snippets of colorful Carnival material and an entire sequence from another intended It’s All True episode, My Friend Bonito, which was directed under Welles’ supervision by Norman Foster in Mexico, the filmmakers, remarkably, have been able to reconstitute Four Men on a Raft virtually intact. Story recounts the astonishing two-month journey of four fishermen on a tiny raft from Fortaleza, on Brazil’s northeast coast, 1,650 miles to Rio, where they successfully pleaded for social benefits for all Brazilian fishermen.