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Film festival kicks off a new season at the Pennsylvania Military Museum

The Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg reopens on Saturday.
The Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg reopens on Saturday. nmark@centredaily.com

The warmer weather has finally arrived — so why not be a patriot and spend Saturday inside watching movies?

On Saturday, the Pennsylvania Military Museum will reopen after having been closed since November, returning from its annual winter hiatus with a screening of four episodes from “Why We Fight,” a government-commissioned series that was directed by legendary filmmaker Frank Capra shortly after the outbreak of World War II.

“These films are part of our national identity. They were created for a purpose,” said Joe Horvath, museum educator.

These films are part of our national identity. They were created for a purpose.

Joe Horvath, museum educator

Yes, OK, but the weather —

Can wait. The films are another invaluable link in the chain the museum uses to tether the past to the present, a chain that is growing increasingly taut against the strain of distance and time.

“The further we get from World War II, the more I need to explain to people why we fought,” Horvath said.

Capra was faced with that same problem. Army Chief of Staff George Marshall recruited him to assemble a rousing call to patriotism (propaganda films) that would explain why the country was once again going off to war.

Following what even then was the age-old maxim of show, don’t tell, Capra made use of speeches from German and Japanese leaders to show American soldiers exactly what they — and the world — were up against.

“He basically used their own material to point out that these guys mean business,” Horvath said.

It is a reality of the movie business that not all films age gracefully, but it certainly helps if the target audience remains more or less the same. Horvath believes that “Why We Fight” has an enduring educational value.

“(President Franklin D.) Roosevelt said that this shouldn’t be for the soldiers, this should be for everyone,” Horvath said.

The Military Movie Madness Festival will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is included in the usual price of admission to the museum, which depending on age ranges between $4 and $6.

The further we get from World War II the more I need to explain to people why we fought.

Joe Horvath, museum educator

While you’re there you might as well pay your respects to another relic making the rounds this weekend, a French propaganda poster from World War I that was recovered in the aftermath of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive by a 79th division officer.

How “They Shall Not Pass” came into the museum’s possession is a fairly convoluted story that involves a dentist and some slight restoration work , but the poster itself is worth a gander for its attempt to show what life may have really looked like down in the trenches.

“A lot of them showed very stylized depictions of patriotism,” Horvath said.

Opening weekend festivities will continue Sunday. Beginning at noon, patrons can enjoy free admission and tours of the museum in honor of Charter Day — which commemorates Charles II giving William Penn the charter for what would eventually become Pennsylvania.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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