HIST/FILM 2907: Film and Modern History
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While I agree this film does make a good documentary, I do think a perspective was left out of the film. The film focuses entirely on different soldiers experiences during the documentary while leaving out the perspective of a common citizen that may have been on the other side of the gun. I think it paints a different picture and can really show the horror that was captured at the end of the documentary. Would we still think the same of those depicted throughout the film? Would we have less sympathy? I think these questions are addressed with more viewpoints than just soldiers. While the film gives major incite of the events of the war, a common man's view may just have been effective or paint the whole story. Overall, I still think its good film, I just want a full picture considering when what voices should be used to tell the story of the war.
Although I agree with you in your argument that historical documentaries do not receive the same amount of attention as a documentary like Planet Earth received, I think that you need to stray away from the definition of what a documentary is and look at historical films themselves as the larger picture.
But first, I would like to continue your debate about certain documentaries being more popular than others. I believe that this happens because obviously some documentaries are just much better than others. I recently watched Tricked on Netflix, a documentary about young women being tricked into prostitution and I did not enjoy the documentary at all. To me, it was just a rehashing of information that I have heard time and time again about these situations. It did not offer solutions, only suggestions on how to stop this horrible reality. To me, if I do not learn anything new or have anything new to take away from a documentary, then its purpose was lost. Another reason for certain documentaries rising to fame over others largely has to do with who is involved with it. A well-known director’s documentary will have a large viewership over a first-time director right off the bat. Even something as simple as a recognizable voice doing the narration will bump viewership and sometimes even acclaim. I would watch a documentary with narration by Morgan Freeman, David Attenborough, Patrick Stewart, Alec Baldwin, or Benedict Cumberbatch over somebody that I did not know. I do believe that documentaries are slowly making a comeback though. Everybody wanted to make a documentary as documentaries like March of the Penguins, Planet Earth, and An Inconvenient Truth were exploding into mainstream media, but quickly faded away. However, the creation of mockumentaries has brought back the interest and population of documentaries. Shows like Parks and Recreation, The Office, and, Modern Family have created a new-found love for this time of format, even if it is untraditional.
To return to my point about looking at historical films as a big picture for documentaries, if you compare We Were Here, a documentary that featured people from a wide range of viewpoints of the epidemic, and City of Life and Death, a historical film that featured characters from a wide range of viewpoints from the occupation of Nanking, the only difference I see is the “title” it holds and the use of fictional characters. City of Life and Death does an amazing job at portraying the atrocities that happened during the occupation of Nanking and I’m sure it would be very similar if it was a documentary based on testimonials of people who lived during this period. If you look at historical films as a type of documentary or as an evolution of the documentary, you will see that the same informative storytelling about an event is all around us in mainstream culture, just under a different title.
I whole heartedly agree. The movie is good in multiple senses, it's captivating and it paints the picture of the three realities of people getting through this era of change. At first I wasn't sure if I would agree with calling it a satirical piece, but then I recalled how the word 'capitalists' was used and how there were plenty of comedic characters who worked to get the point across. This movie was eye opening to me, because as a westerner and a capitalist I myself forgot that not everyone in Eastern Germany would be happy when the wall came down, and not everyone would run towards capitalism and western ideals. It was a friendly reminder to myself that I am a product of my world just like Alex's mother was a product of hers and I have been told to fear their world as they have been told to fear mine. It is a good piece to talk about the fall of Eastern Germany, but also to provide information about communism. We may not have grown up in the time of the Cold War but we are a product of it all the same, we are only told the negatives of communism, it is painted as the evil other and we never for a moment stop to think about individual people and how they believed in their society the way we do in our.
The first point in your blog post, that historical films present a unique method of communication for students, is one with which I strongly agree. Films are very important for not just entertainment, but also for education. Film is a widespread form of media with which almost every person can say they are familiar, and because of this popularity film becomes a very powerful medium through which information can be shared. History especially can be shown through film, whether it be a documentary, a dramatization, or a combination of the two. Film has become a staple in the way that people understand and learn about history. And not just big-budget films either. Footage of war-zones is just as important as the recreation of said war zone, if not more important. The personal narrative also plays a huge role in the way that history is presented on film, as was seen in We Were Here.
I agree with your article, because the memories that contain in the history are really interesting, and after reading your article, I think we have the same idea of this issue.
The way of memory being effect is giving me a new idea of what to believe, for example how people build up memory, how people package their memory and how people protect themselves by rethink about their memory, these information allow me to ask and understand why to believe and kind of understand why survivors will talk in this way. Then the following films are all have some parts that related to the memory, I guess this is just what human being is built for, and to choose Waltz with Bashir at the early film at the beginning of the semester is a smart move.
I agree with you. I don't think, when hearing someone talk about history, that accuracy is the important thing. Oh sure, you can probably collect enough testimonies that you can weed out what was possibly invented by accident or exaggerated or whatever and give yourself an alright understanding of the specifics of the event. Really though, that's not the important part, the reconstruction. The important thing IS the talking. You brought up the imperfection of memory, and I agree on your points about it. Are there going to corrupted memories that will hurt the accuracy of a story? Oh absolutely. I can barely tell you exactly what happened last week with clarity, so how can someone telling their story remember every last detail? What matters is what they saw. It doesn't matter if it wasn't empirically true and doesn't hold up entirely to what historians have established about what actually happened. What matters is this: it was their truth.
I completely agree with your sentiment that We Were Here should be used as a compliment to research into the topic of HIV/AIDS during this period in San Francisco. While the movie is certainly a fantastic way to learn about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it only shows the tales of 4 men and 1 woman during the period and while individuals can speak for a community as a whole, especially regarding something as devastating as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we certainly cannot call the film the ‘whole’ story. Tens of thousands of men and women were affected by the HIV/AIDS outbreak, as well as their families. Nonetheless, We Were Here is a fantastic educational tool and should certain be seen as an effective and worthwhile film.
I think we don't necessarily need to dramatize history for students to connect with it. It's very easy to say and read "6 000 000 Jews died" or "120 000 Allied soldiers died in the Invasion of Normandy." It appeals to that logical side of someone's head to give them numbers and textual descriptions. I don't think history needs to be dramatized such as it was in the films you mentioned or be made into a lesson plan. They just need to see it. They need to hear it from someone who was there. Those statistics need to be ignored for a minute and instead of being told that people died, they need to hear from people who saw the people die. Films like Shoah or We Were Here do this very well. Very little in the way of hard and fast statistics is presented to the audience. It’s just someone talking about what happened. You see their faces as they work through their emotions of the event. By hearing and seeing it, you build your own interpretation of it. And I realize as I’m typing this, I’m already proving myself wrong. This would only apply to recent history. Anything before 1900 or thereabouts will be very hard indeed for a student to see, as there would be very little in the way of a good testimony from the people of that time. So, yeah, in the end I agree with you. Film would be a perfect way for a teacher to get their foot in the door. As well, a potential entry way for teachers might be the YouTube series Crash Course: World History, hosted by the young adult literature author John Green. Very informative, engaging, etc., and would act as good way into the minds of the students, getting them ready for further investigation into a time period or event.
I strongly agree with your point of view. Many of us having grown up far from such event as the holocaust or the rape of Nanking and in a distant period of time have little connection to these events. As a result it is hard for a individual to grasp or emotional connect with the severity and horror these atrocities inflicted on those forced to endure them. By seeing them through film and being able to connect with the characters, individuals such as myself are able to see these events for more then just a number representation of the death toll, but rather the affect it had on the individual person. Having witnessed these events through film I feel like I gained a more in depth appreciation for effects these events had on the individual and just how terrible they truly were.
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