In my last entry, I talked about the state of expos in the United States. It’s a difficult topic to address to an American audience since there are a number of big issues here. These issues include: the lack of US participation in two recent foreign expositions, the lower quality of the presentations that did happen, the lack of transparency behind those efforts, as well as the lack of any world’s fairs on US soil in nearly 30 years. This is made even more difficult because the vast majority of Americans are unaware that expos still exist. Many younger people have never even heard of the medium – no matter if you call them “expos" (as most of the world does) or “world’s fairs” (as most Americans do).
Filmmaker Jeffrey Ford started wondering a few years ago what ever happened to world’s fairs. They inspired generations and he began to wonder, after a chance purchase of old View-Master Reels, whatever happened to the medium. The film begins by documenting his own journey to answer his own question: What happened to the world’s fair?
In so many ways, this is the documentary, note-for-note, that I’d want to tell an American audience about world’s fairs: They do still exist, they’re still relevant, they still inspire, and for reasons that aren’t quite clear, the United States government has chosen to turn its back on them.
Ford weaves his own journeys visiting Zaragoza’s Expo 2008, Shanghai’s Expo 2010, and Yeosu’s Expo 2012 with interviews of some of the key players in the United States world’s fair scene: pavilion designers, pavilions organizers, government bureaucrats, and even my colleague Steve Heckler, who is working to organize a potential bid for Minneapolis-St. Paul.
There are some great visuals in the film and I particularly enjoyed seeing the footage of various 20th and 21st Century world’s fairs. There’s also a fantastic juxtaposition between how the United States and the United Kingdom approached the challenge of creating a compelling pavilion at Expo 2010.
The film premiered at the Cape Fear Film Festival and won the title of “best documentary.” The filmmakers are currently looking for distribution. It’s my hope that as many Americans see this as possible: particularly those in government who can witness for themselves the importance of participation.
We owe the next generation of Americans a source of inspiration: to learn, to dream, and to then build those dreams. To Mr. Ford, world’s fairs can be just that source of inspiration and pride.