A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps

Movie review by
Lynnette Nicholas, Common Sense Media
A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps Movie Poster Image
Informative documentary promotes global activism.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 107 minutes

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Positive Messages

Messages of using political influence to shape the world for greater good and for future generations. Showcases a positive message and diplomatic perspective on the history and function of the Peace Corps. Themes of being of service, compassion, empathy, a focus on humanity. Also integrity, humility, perseverance, and teamwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Politicians, heads of state, leaders use their platforms to encourage and support young Americans to volunteer for Peace Corps. President John F. Kennedy advocates and promotes positive international relations. American citizens volunteer to work in other countries and be of service. Political figures stand up for Peace Corps when other leaders attempt to diminish its influence and function.


Talk of wars.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps is a documentary directed by Alana DeJoseph that outlines the history of the Peace Corps. The documentary features testimonies, interviews, and recordings by notable figures including President John F. Kennedy, Harry Belafonte, President Jimmy Carter, Chris Dodd, Maria Shriver, and more. The movie has clear themes of the value of global citizenship, being of service, empathy, compassion, and humility. There's no nudity, violence (other than talk of war), swearing, substance use, or consumerism of note. The film is likely to appeal most to viewers with an interest in international relations, global policy, political history, and possibly even missionary work.

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What's the story?

Directed by Alana DeJoseph and narrated by Annette Bening, A TOWERING TASK: THE STORY OF THE PEACE CORPS documents the history of the Peace Corps and its impact on communities around the world. The film centers on the words of powerful political figure John F. Kennedy, most notably his famous call to action, "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

Is it any good?

This timely, informative (if slow) documentary sheds light on a truly unique American agency and the goal of using it to create global citizens striving to make an impact on future generations. The film's overall tone is inspirational, and screenwriter Shana Kelly does a very detailed job of weaving together the personal experiences and testimonials of past and present volunteers, clearly creating correlations with the political climates of particular time periods and their direct impact on global cultures and communities. Not only does A Towering Task showcase the powerful function of the Peace Corps and its history, it also reveals the agency's many struggles, including its high leadership turnover.

Vanessa Carr's cinematography is a great asset to the film. Beautiful aerial shots capture unique locations around the world. A Towering Task is most likely to appeal to teens and young adults who are especially interested in international relations, global policy, and political history. The film also showcases the impact of positive social and global activism, encourages having empathy and compassion for all people, and lends itself to conversations and perspectives centered on the future of the world. At times, the documentary can drag -- and come across as promoting American nationalism. There's also a bit of an "American savior" complex in play. But in other moments, it's genuinely engaging as it depicts the original motives for establishing the Peace Corps.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Peace Corps, international relations, John F. Kennedy, nationalism, and global citizenship. According to A Towering Task, why was the Peace Corp established, and in what ways has it struggled to maintain its identity over the years?

  • In what ways did the Peace Corps influence international relations globally? How did political figures and world leaders respond to the agency and its volunteers?

  • What role did Kennedy play in establishing the Peace Corps? In his response to the Peace Corps, what character strengths did he demonstrate as a political leader?

  • In what ways does the mission of the Peace Corps promote global citizenship? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and activism

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