THE BLOG
02/28/2014 09:21 am ET Updated Apr 30, 2014

The Oscar Film that Fed Europe's Hungry

Winning an Oscar takes a lot of hard work. Sometimes films face challenges that you might not expect.

In the 1940's one documentary faced a real barrier because theater owners did not want to show it. They called the film "too gruesome."

The film, called the Seeds of Destiny, had to resort to "underground" viewings. This film was about the post World War II hunger crisis. It showed the devastating effect of war and the malnutrition that is always the result. Children suffer the most from malnutrition as it can cause lasting physical and mental damage, or worse.

Dwight Eisenhower gave the go ahead for the U.S. Army Signal Corps to produce the film. Footage was taken from all over Europe.

Captain David Miller is quoted in the book We Are the Children:

"The shooting war is over, but the war itself is not. Now we have to go out there and save all the children....We went into an improvised hospital somewhere in Italy where children were being treated. The stench was so terrible in the children's ward that we had to cover our mouths and noses with wet handkerchiefs while we filmed. We took turns going outside to vomit. During the two to three hours it took us to shoot a hundred feet of film, three children died. We found conditions like this in many countries. This was a heartbreaking film to make."

The Seeds of Destiny, through its private viewings, was able to raise millions of dollars for hunger relief in war-devastated countries. Sometimes a Council on Foreign Relations offered a viewing, or a restaurant would give a showing and turn the proceeds over to UNICEF.

The film also was shown by President Truman's Cabinet Committee on World Food Programs, a special group trying to rally food supplies for the starving countries.

What's key to remember is that the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe was being crafted during this time. Fighting hunger was essential for the plan to succeed, which it certainly did. The Seeds of Destiny played its role in raising awareness of hunger in Europe.

Every film has a message. It's the power of film that can entertain, inspire, or sometimes educate and bring great action toward a cause like world hunger.

Film today can do much good too in educating about hunger conditions across the world. For children in Syria, Afghanistan, Haiti, Yemen, Mali, South Sudan, Central African Republic and many others are all going through what Europe did after the war. They are struggling to get food and fight off malnutrition.

We know from the Seeds of Destiny that you cannot have peace as long as there is such terrible hunger in the world. That is also an important point to remember with International School Meals Day on March 6th.

The Seeds of Destiny and the U.S. Army Signal Corps won the 1946 Academy Award for best documentary short subject. After winning the Oscar it helped open the door for more viewings in theaters nationwide.