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American History Film Research Project for History

American History Film Research Project for History 231 The goal of this American History Film Research Project is to stimulate you to think critically about how movies inform our view of history. It is a simple-minded belief that students learn everything they need to know about history in a classroom, from the boring facts that spill forward across the pages of mind-numbing textbooks. We live in a visual age, and as a historian whether I like it or not – students learn a lot of history from films. Films are infinitely more interesting that the thick textbook that students buy each semester. Truth be told everybody watches films, everybody! As a historian I believe that it is imperative that we ask crucial questions about these “historical films,” questions such as who are the historians creating these films? Whose histories are they telling? Are there histories they are not telling? Are we as a society shaped by historical films, if so how? For this project you will chose a film from the list of films about American History. The film you choose must have a specific historical trail that you can study, assemble, investigate, and immerse yourself in just as the people making a historical will do. There must be a trail that you can follow, so this means that not every film will work. There must be sources that you can document. The film must deal with American history, not simply a person or event so chose a film that you believe should be a part of our national or cultural memory, something that should be studied in school. Below you will find a series of questions that can be used as prompts to start you on the path of gathering information. There are general questions about history and specific film and historical questions. General Questions: How do you define history? What is the role of history in culture? Do Americans need to know their history? Why is history a required subject in school? Is history to create national pride and individual identity? Or should history just be about the facts? Is history political? What is cultural memory, popular memory, and collective memory? Specific Questions: How do you define cinematic history? Why do film-makers make historical film, what is their agenda? What do films about history tell us about the past? What questions or answers did the film-maker bring to the film-making? What questions or answers does an audience take away from such films? What is the relation between “fact” and “fiction” in such films? How do such films deal with “evidence” when it is there? What if there is little or no evidence? Do films qualify to be called “history”? Can film-makers be called “historians”? Does creativity destroy authenticity? What do professional historians think of historical films? Why do some historical films troublesome professional historians? Why are professional historians not more involved in making historical films? Why should people interested in American history see historical films? What can we learn about history or the making of history through film? To what extent do such films present history with “integrity”? When is a film-maker “responsible” when dealing with historical subjects? When is a film maker irresponsible? Project Instructions and guidelines: Synopsis: is a condensed, focused summary: Give the main facts. Outline the main plot. Most importantly, make sure the specific “historical” element is clearly visible. Historical Context: write an essay on the historical subject of the film and provide an annotated list of print, video, and online resources on the historical subject. Scene Analysis: write a short essay on one important scene in the film. Issue Essay: write a 3-page essay on an issue in history that the film raises. Images: provide a minimum of six images that are related to the film or the historical subject. Produce a PowerPoint presentation that explains how and why these images relate to the film or historical subject Works Cited: provide a works cited page Historical Films List Pre-Columbian Era Apocalypto Exploration/First Contact 1492 Black Robe Cabeza de Vaca New World Roots (Episode 1) Colonization Jefferson in Paris Last of the Mohicans Roots Episode (2, 3, 4, 5, or 6) The Crucible The Scarlett Letter American Rev/New Nation 1776 Almost Heroes Benedict Arnold John Adams (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6) The Patriot Age of Jackson Gone to Texas The Alamo Slavery/Sectionalism 12 Years a Slave Amistad A Woman Called Moses Abraham Lincoln North and South (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6) Uncle Tom’s Cabin Civil War Cold Mountain Gangs of New York Glory Gods and Generals Lincoln The Conspirator Reconstruction/1880s Buffalo Soldiers Dances with Wolves Little Big Man Lonesome Dove (1, 2, or 3) Queen


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