‘A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps’ Serves in Virtual Cinemas May 22


First Run Features is pleased to announce that A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps will have virtual theatrical runs across the U.S. beginning May 22, 2020.

After sold-out screenings at the Kennedy Center and the Denver Film Festival, numerous community screenings from Alaska to Washington, DC to Hawaii and Florida, not to mention international screenings in Colombia and Afghanistan, the film will finally be available to American cinema-goers…albeit via streaming.

Directed by Alana DeJoseph and narrated by Annette Bening, the documentary features indelible interviews of current and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, current and former staff, scholars and journalists, community members and leaders around the world (including Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf). Remarkable archival materials and stunning footage from around the globe by cinematographer Vanessa Carr bring to life an agency that represents to the world the American idea. By expertly weaving together personal volunteer experiences with the political machinations of the time, screenwriter Shana Kelly provides viewers with a visceral experience of Kennedy’s words “what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

Among the notable people who have either served as volunteers or worked as staff for the Peace Corps are journalists Bill Moyers, Marco Werman, Maureen Orth, Peter Hessler, George Packer and Chris Matthews; Senators Jay Rockefeller and Chris Dodd; Congresswoman Donna Shalala and Congressmen Joe Kennedy and Christopher Shays; State Senator Jason Carter and his grandmother Lillian Carter; Ambassadors Vicki Huddleston and J. Christopher Stevens; Netflix founder Reed Hastings; novelist Paul Theroux; home improvement specialist Bob Vila; and Hollywood director Taylor Hackford.

In response to the current pandemic, in the first time in its history the Peace Corps has evacuated all Volunteers, and the future of the agency is in question. At a time when America is reevaluating its role in the world, the story of this uniquely American government agency takes viewers on a journey of what it means to be a global citizen.

Watch the Trailer
A Towering Task puts a human face on the Peace Corps – and makes sense
of its history of idealism, improvisation, politics, and at times its failings.
It is the most coherent and satisfying documentary I know of the Peace Corps, and I can’t imagine a better one. The film is enlightening, too, for being in large part the portrait of a period when America was outward looking and uncynical and generous…it shows the roots of such idealism, which is why it is so enlightening and uplifting.”
– Paul Theroux, Travel Writer & Novelist

It was 1961. Young Americans were looking for ways to serve their country. Motivated by the book The Ugly American President Kennedy gave America the Peace Corps and appointed Sargent Shriver as the program’s first director. Within weeks the agency was established and in its first year, hundreds of volunteers were serving in dozens of countries. The Peace Corps provided an opportunity to bring America to the world and bring the world home to America. However, trouble was soon on the horizon: Rapid growth and a disillusioned public during the Vietnam War soon had the agency fighting for its existence, and it wasn’t until the 80s that the Peace Corps found an unlikely champion in President Ronald Reagan that brought about an unexpected revival. As the agency is nearing its 60th anniversary, more than 200,000 Volunteers have served in over 140 countries. At the beginning of 2020, more than 7,300 Americans of all ages were serving their country and seeking to understand their place in the global community. They worked at the forefront of some of the most pressing issues facing the global community demonstrating what it means to be an American, both in the U.S. and as part of a broader global community.

A Towering Task is the first documentary to chronicle the remarkable history of the agency. As the pandemic subsides and the world once again will have to reevaluate how to cooperate, the story of the Peace Corps will serve as a reminder of Kennedy’s call to action: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

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