One Word of Truth (1981)

15 Feb
Director Peter Sisam
Producer Hannen Foss; Anglo-Nordic Productions Trust
Contributors Tom Courtenay; Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenit︠s︡yn
Length 29 min.
B&W/Color Color
UO Library Catalog description: 1 film reel (29 min.): sd., col., 24 fps ; 16mm + 1 guide. Title also in Russian. Narration is based on Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize lecture, 1970. Based on Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which he was not allowed to give. Prison camp sequences, works of art, and historic newsreel footage dramatize many issues facing human beings such as the differing scales of values in the world, terrorism, violence, The Lie, the relevance of art and literature, and the role of the individual.
Call # FILM Mc175
Genre Documentary
Rare YES
Online NO
Copyright status Protected
Physical condition FAIR
Oregon-related NO


The accompanying guide is currently missing. Prior to this film, director Peter Sisam contributed to many educational/instructional films in 1970.  The speech upon which the film was based was never given in Stockholm because Solzhenitsyn thought it’s deliverance would affect his citizenship in Russia.

Read by Tom Courtney, the film questions how individuals can address the evils of the world, and suggests that the writer can stand as a witness against falsehood. The film thematically explores the power of art and literature to recognize and represent good and evil (Source).

“Based on Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize lecture. Prison camp sequences shot in Lapland, works of art and newsreel footage dramatise many issues facing mankind such as the differing scale of values in the world, the use of terrorism and violence, the relevance of art and literature and the role of the individual.” (Source)

The film, “exhorts viewers to shoulder their responsibilities as citizens—to fight untruth, injustice, and repression wherever they arise and before they become too powerful to overcome.

Never delivered because he was not permitted to leave the Soviet Union in time, the speech is read by Solzhenitsyn in Russian (in the English version by actor Tom Courtenay). Using Solzhenitsyn’s prison camp experience as a point of departure, the film moves rapidly outward to involve all of us—those who have suffered violence, and those who have allowed others to suffer.

‘The world is overrun by the brazen conviction that force can do everything, while justice can do nothing,’ says the author. With governments and citizens subscribing to a double standard of justice—one for themselves and one for ‘the others,’ one for the rich and one for the poor, one for the powerful and one for the powerless—it becomes necessary for each of us to stand up and be counted. A Russian aphorism becomes the emblem of this message: ‘One word of truth outweighs the whole world.’” (Source)

“Ailsa was a founding trustee of Anglo-Nordic Productions Trust, which turned One Word of Truth into a multi-award winning documentary film, with the actor Tom Courtenay giving the commentary. The film’s text was drawn from Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech, published in 1972.

The film, released in 1980 and now in 16 languages, won the bronze medal in the 1982 International Film and TV Festival of New York and the Red Ribbon in the literature category of the 1984 American Film Festival. It also won for its director, Peter Sisam, Best Film of the Year for a member of the Royal Photographic Society. When Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia after years of exile in the US, he took two copies of the film with him. The film remains one of Ailsa’s enduring legacies.” (Source)

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