by Brenda on November 10, 2017 - 11:02pm
Blog #1: What purpose does film serve in the history classroom or in telling of history?
I don’t remember the textbook assigned to me by my teacher, for my 12th grade American History class. I don’t honestly recall much about the essay I wrote for that class or writing the final exam or even my overall grade in the class. I do remember though, we had an assignment to watch the movie The Patriot, about the American Revolution.
My teacher did not merely have us watch The Patriot as an easy way to teach us the events of the American Revolution or to take two classes off from teaching us, but rather used it as away to sharpen our skill of critical thinking. By looking at the gross inaccuracies of the film, we analyzed and questioned, the story being told to us. Furthermore the things that the film got wrong or the facts manipulated for the purpose of a dramatic storyline, only strengthened the real historical facts that we had learned through written sources.
It is a skill I have applied not only to that particular 12th grade assignment, but to many other films. To not take what is presented in a film to always be historically accurate, but more often facts are left out or twisted in order to shape the overall plot of a movie. It is not just the short comings of films that are useful for teaching history. History films main advantage over the written word is that it brings history to life.
Through the magic of cinema, an audience is transmitted back in time, to relive events and experience historical figures. Words on a page can only bring a student so far with experiencing history, it cannot be denied the strength of films to submerge an individual. Although works of fiction, the built sets, costumes and other details, all work together to bring history into movement. Films sometimes have the heightened ability to elicit emotions from an audience, more so than texts in a book. In the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, the director Steven Spielberg uses intermittent silence, cut with the sounds of soldiers screaming pain, bullets and shrapnel flying through the air pulls the audience into experiencing the traumatic chaos those soldiers would have went through landing on Omaha beach.
Outside of the classroom, it cannot be denied the strong influence films play in telling the stories of history. It would not be realistic to believe individuals will only learn about history through books, journals or articles, especially those who are not taking history as a course of study. I find that everyone has an area of interest, when it comes to history and movies are how they tend to indulge their interest. Films provide a wide spread of retelling historical events and can sometimes offer different interpretations of historical events. The medium of film, also provides an avenue for those who have been underrepresented in texts or by first hand news reports, to tell their story to the public.
Often a historical movie will spark an audiences interest in a certain historical event and will motivate them to want to learn more on the subject. There is usually a connection between a popular movie and an increase from the general public to want to learn more about certain historical events or historical figures.
In conclusion the debate of what is a stronger learning material, the writings of historians or films will wage on, but it cannot be denied that film has proven itself to be more than just a contender but a valuable source for learning about history.