VOTD: How Orson Welles Turned ‘Nostradamus’ & Predicted A Democracy's Future!

By Yash Thakur. Posted on December 29, 2015

Orson Welles, one of the greatest filmmakers of all times, has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind and distinguishing right from wrong. Maker of films such as Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil and The Magnificient Ambersons, Welles had fought against the studio system throughout his life from censorship and for control over his own creativity. For many who don't know, Orson Welles was also an accomplished narrator (he found international success after doing a controversial radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds in 1938), a celebrated Shakespearean stage actor and a magician.

So it comes as a surprise when the back story of 40-year-old animated short informs us that the bold filmmaker in Orson Welles (who was also known for his baritone voice that would captivate the audience) initially showed no interest in narrating this brilliant piece of work.

"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."

Directed by Sam Weiss, Freedom River tells the story of decline–of a once great nation lapsing into ugliness. In fact, this fable-like video is more relevant than ever, with the world turning bleak and worse each day. Xenophobia, greed, racism, extinction of environment (you could add a few more traits to the list) are nothing new. In the video, Orson doesn't specifically mention in, but it's quite apparent that they are speaking of USA. The film could as well be talking about what we as a species are doing to the planet.

Narrating the story of how a group of strangers comes across an island that is new and rich with resources who then inhabit and populate it and subsequently destroy its sanctity with their greed and short-sightedness, Welles speaks of ageless problems that are more relevant than ever with each passing day. Fortunately, Orson Welles’s narration leaves us with room to hope and believe that wisdom will prevail and that society will realize the wrongdoings, oust the perpetrators and make their world a better place.

Though the short film was made in 1971, Freedom River has still not lost its appeal. Watch it here on Jamuura TV. Meanwhile, you can listen to the full broadcast of The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles below:


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