Let the American show you Photo: Unknown
Let the American show you Photo: Unknown


This paper, and the project as a whole, examines how U.S. government institutions and private film companies employed cinema as a colonial tool during the first decades of annexing its five occupied territories: the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, and Hawaii.

Nadi Tofighian Photo: Private
Nadi Tofighian Photo: Private

The project begins with the premise that film exhibition, production, and distribution practices made a significant contribution to the early spread of American influence among the local populations in these colonies. It charts the development of cinema, and its distribution and exhibition, from a transnational and colonial perspective, with a special focus on the Philippines. The quotation in the title, ‘Let the American Show You’, is taken from a self-promotional advertisement printed in the daily newspaper Manila American in 1898. The phrase encapsulates ideas of American exceptionalism, racial hierarchies, and colonial discourses prevalent at the time, and echoes the claim of early cinema to be showing the world to its audiences.