Film as history

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Film as history

Postby brendan on Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:34 am

This might be of interest to people - an article on how/whether hollywood can contribute to history

http://www.medievalists.net/2010/02/09/the-reel-joan-of-arc-reflections-on-the-theory-and-practice-of-the-historical-film-2/
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Re: Film as history

Postby bannerman on Wed Feb 10, 2010 5:51 pm

I am exceptionally dubious of using films - particularly "Hollywood Films" made in the USA as a historical aid more often then not historical facts are thrown out the window for the benefit of drama and the opportunity to use / overuse special effects.

When it comes to Irish history just look at Michael Collins - (you could have thrown a few unicorns into the plot and it wouldn't have affected its historical accuracy much!) However it was very successful as entertainment even if It was not historically accurate.

I have misgivings about using documentaries to teach novices history - take for example RTE's documentary "Hidden History - The Killings at Coolacrease. This programme was so inaccurate, unbalanced and driven by the political agenda of Senator Eoghan Harris and the Revisionist School of Irish History that it inspired a 451 page book "Coolacrease the true story of the Pearson executions an incident in the Irish War Of Independence" by Paddy Heaney and others. ISBN 978 1903497 48 7

Hollywood will produce anything and attempt to portray it as fact / history/ a true story / based on a true story if it brings the money in. One example of this is the book / film "Angel At The Fence, The True Story of a Love That Survived" by Herman Rosenblat. Essentially it is a love story about how Rosenblat was smuggled food by a young girl while in a concentration camp during WW2. Years later he met her again on a blind date and they have been married for many years. Rosenblat a genuine Holocaust survivor who was imprisoned in Schlieben, had to admit just before publication that the book which he initially claimed was a true memoir was largely a work of fiction. This caused a huge storm in the US and internationally and the book was never published. However this did not stop Hollywood
A $25 million film adaptation of the book, titled Flower of the Fence, is set for production in spite of the cancellation of the story's publication, the film's producer, Harris Salomon of Atlantic Overseas Pictures, has said the film is a "loose and fictionalised adaptation" whose production is unaffected by issues with the memoir's authenticity.Mr. Salomon stated on the film's website that "American publishing still suffers from the worst kind of censorship." and that "Herman Rosenblat's story of survival, and its message of love and hope will not be silenced."An independent publisher, York House Press, in White Plains, New York, announced in January 2009 that it will publish a novel adapted from the movie script.

[url]Ultimately Hollywood is interested in making money and not educating people about their history[/url]. If you want to find better, more accurate / realistic historical dramas quite often you have to turn to "independent cinema" and foreign films "french, german etc..."
When it comes to historical films I think the preface is the most important. When the presented as being a true story like "Michael Collins", or "The Treaty" and contains named historical figures then I expect it to be as accurate and close to the established historical facts as the budget allows. When the film is merely set in the time period like "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" or "Rebel Heart" and only has passing references to known historical figures, all the characters being fictional they directors should be allowed a lot more "wiggle room" in how they portray the facts or alter them for dramatic effect.

Ultimately I suppose if Hollywood films like "Michael Collins", "Braveheart", "The Aryan Couple" or "Good" get people to open a book and learn something for themselves then they have done some good Unfortunately I feal that this dosent happen very often, more commonly they convince the public (whether intentionally of otherwise) that fantastic film plots are factual history and do a lot of damage. I am quite happy with Quentin Tarrintinos alternative ending to WW2 in the film Inglorious Besterds( Where an american led commando unit assassinate Hitler and singlehandedly end the war!) - because it is not claimed to be a true story or meant to be taken seriously - films like Braveheart that were presented as factual and meant to be taken seriously have done a lot of damage.

The website that Rosenstone bases his essay on seems to back me up on some points for example brave heart was voted the worst historical figure because its was a "massively inaccurate portrayal of the life of the 13th-century hero William Wallace," Id like to have a look at the movie "Walker" wpresented as a piece of black humour which apparently is delibaretly innacurate from the off including in the 1856 film scenes computer monitors, Mercedes automobiles, and Time magazine.

People who learn their history primarily from Hollywood films are worse off in my opinion that those who hold little knowledge or interest in the subject.
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Re: Film as history

Postby tommyargue on Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:23 pm

American film portray american history accurately enough , films such as the latest version of "the Alamo" and "Glory" were quite close to the mark, perhaps American audiences won't tolerate film makers "artistic vision" making a mockery of their heritage and history but it's ok to do it to someone elses. Any how with the dominance of dvd it's easy enough to put things right by including a facts behind the story documentary on the special features so as to cover their asses. At the end of the day film makers are entertainers not educators and if their factually incorrect films encourage 10% of the audience to take an interest in the subject matter of their film and research the facts for themselves well then they've matched or even outdone any historian.
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Re: Film as history

Postby the_power on Mon Feb 15, 2010 10:59 pm

U-571 was the paramount example of an accurate American history movie, of course.

After watching Braveheart, I decided to check out the original "Blind Harry's Wallace". No idea how accurate it was, given it was written around 1400, but I loved it to pieces. It's the kind of racist, insane, beautiful story that just couldn't be made into a movie these days. Wallace didn't have his wife taken by the Evil English - he killed two English lads in a pub over an argument and went on the run after killing the sherrif who was sent to arrest him. He didn't paint himself in wode before battle..he convinced his men to paint Scottish Saltyres on their faces instead - just like modern rugby fans. He didn't sent the head of the Duke of York back to the King..he had him skinned and made into a scabbard.

Freakin' awesome. Highly recommended book.

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Re: Film as history

Postby thepremier on Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:04 pm

brendan wrote:This might be of interest to people - an article on how/whether hollywood can contribute to history

http://www.medievalists.net/2010/02/09/the-reel-joan-of-arc-reflections-on-the-theory-and-practice-of-the-historical-film-2/


It's interesting that Rosenstone, with specific reference to Walker, defends the practice of inventing or imagining representative incidents. This points to the obvious problem in adapting real events to the screen - not only do they have to be entertaining, but to have wider themes and accord with the audiences' preconceptions.

American film portray american history accurately enough , films such as the latest version of "the Alamo" and "Glory" were quite close to the mark, perhaps American audiences won't tolerate film makers "artistic vision" making a mockery of their heritage and history but it's ok to do it to someone elses.


For US audiences, the subject material is well-known enough that the films have a built-in audience, and that audience would be repelled by an attempt to take liberties with the known events. This explains the disdain with which The Patriot was greeted (and rightly so, since history obviously took second place to Mel Gibson's revenge fantasy), and I think this may have influenced the reaction against Braveheart which subsequently took place. In general though, as tommyargue says, the U.S. film industry can get away with anything when it has to do with history outside of the United States.

I haven't seen Invictus, but John Pilger argues that it legitimises the Apartheid regime.
At first I thought Invictus, could not be taken seriously, then I looked around the cinema at young people and others for whom the horrors of apartheid have no reference, and I understood the damage such a slick travesty does to our memory and its moral lessons. Imagine Eastwood making a happy-Sambo equivalent in the American Deep South. He would not dare.
Source

[url]Ultimately Hollywood is interested in making money and not educating people about their history[/url]. If you want to find better, more accurate / realistic historical dramas quite often you have to turn to "independent cinema" and foreign films "french, german etc..."
When it comes to historical films I think the preface is the most important. When the presented as being a true story like "Michael Collins", or "The Treaty" and contains named historical figures then I expect it to be as accurate and close to the established historical facts as the budget allows. When the film is merely set in the time period like "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" or "Rebel Heart" and only has passing references to known historical figures, all the characters being fictional they directors should be allowed a lot more "wiggle room" in how they portray the facts or alter them for dramatic effect.

This is true, and it is why The Wind that Shakes the Barley is more successful than Michael Collins, even though both had ideological
agendas to promote. It didn't help that Neil Jordan didn't try to treat Collins's Irish opponents as human beings but rather as cardboard cut-outs from the pro-treaty propaganda hall of villains. Interestingly, though, Shake Hands with the Devil, which took a similar approach to anti-treatyites, James Cagney playing a de Valera/Brugha synthesis who turns into a psychopath after the treaty is signed, is regarded as an excellent film. I found it dull, but there were some reasonably accurate Dublin city ambushes and chases.
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Re: Film as history

Postby Nerva on Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:16 am

bannerman wrote:I am exceptionally dubious of using films - particularly "Hollywood Films" made in the USA as a historical aid more often then not historical facts are thrown out the window for the benefit of drama and the opportunity to use / overuse special effects.


Rubbish :!: Have you never seen Gladiator :twisted:
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