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This documentary was quite enlightening for me. It humbled me in more
ways than one. Being a "history buff" who cared nothing for Texas
history in general or the Alamo in particular, I thought I already knew
enough relevant details about the Alamo: it was an insignificant battle
of the Mexican-American War that has been over-hyped over the years by
loudmouth Texans with egos the size of their home state.
Well, my vision of the Alamo wasn't quite correct after all. The Alamo preceded the Mexican-American War by a decade. It was a battle between a couple hundred Texas settlers and at least 5,000 veteran members of the Mexican army, led by yet another foreign leader labeled by Americans as a "brutal dictator". The Texans knew they would die if reinforcements didn't arrive (which wasn't likely), yet they stood their ground anyway in a battle of defiance against tyranny reminiscent of the American colonists' revolt against another tyrant half a century earlier. The later hype came more from Walt Disney's love of money than from Texan's love of freedom, and today the Alamo is a popular tourist attraction at the center of the commercial district in America's 9th largest city, San Antonio. Unlike 1836, the Alamo today has a roof--with huge air-conditioners on it!
While the film makes it clear that a large number of faithful Texans (and other Americans) seem to understand the Texas rebel's real motives, and empathize with them, I was surprised that no one seemed to recognize the irony of an open frontier where those rebels died for freedom becoming the modern commercial prison/shopping mall that surrounds the Alamo today. I had the impression that if Davy Crockett could have looked ahead 180 years, he would have wished the Alamo residents good luck and ridden on to another opportunity for lasting glory instead.
The film's focus is the phenomenon of the Alamo myth in modern times, not the story of the Alamo battle itself. Details of the battle are revealed gradually, in no particular order, as if to assume that the viewer already knows the story. Well, I did not know the story, but the film did a fine job of presenting it within the context of its focus on the phenomenon anyway, so no complaints there.
The interviews with Alamo historians, buffs, and other interested parties are wonderful. Each has something significant to say (and often, artifacts to show). My favorite part was the modern annual re-enactment, and the accompanying profound remarks on the value of "living history" to help us empathize with the real sacrifices our ancestors made to make life a little better for their progeny (us). If more people empathized like that, perhaps there would be fewer shopping malls engulfing our historical treasures today.
The DVD also features a surprisingly good 40 minute black & white educational film called "Remember the Alamo". Although it may look like a typical American propaganda film from the early Cold War period, it is relatively reserved in its patriotic zeal, and simply tells the story without trying to manufacture too much history, considering that no one knows what really happened at the Alamo. The documentary film and educational short combination is an excellent introduction to the Alamo. If nothing else, it will prevent people from walking around with a completely inaccurate conception of the Alamo (as I had before).
My DVD has serious audio problems during one brief portion, and the "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier" song was noticeably absent while it was being discussed on screen. But then again, have YOU ever tried to afford the rights to a Disney song? The upside is that these minor technical problems put this beauty in my CD collection for $4.99, and no information was lost from the audio problems.
As a documentary that imparts a lot of information, and conveys it well, I give this film a high rating despite minor technical problems on the DVD I purchased. Thanks to the filmmaker(s) for finally introducing me to this fascinating piece of American history!
As an Alamo buff I have seen most of the features of the famous battle, and the men who fought there. This documentary took a fascinating slice of our history and squeezed the life out of it. The production values were very low: camera work, lighting (if you're only shooting heads, try to make them look good) and the editing seemed completely unmotivated. The little "bonus" scene of the museum artifacts was very badly done, like someone had a timer and had to leave. I found myself watching, transfixed, as each repetitive sound bite, delivered without benefit of supporting footage or some interesting inter-cuts, droned on. The section of previous features was the best part, using at least footage from the past, though the insights weren't too insightful.Thinking I had found someone's high school project, I looked up the producer and see she has quite a few credits. Well, she phoned this one in.
The Alamo Documentary is a labor of love for the many San Antonio
historians and reenactors who were interviewed. Sadly, this overly long
work doesn't actually depict the full history of the Alamo itself.
Interviewees refer at great length to the event as if the audience
already possesses full knowledge of the story. Yet an actual account of
the battle is no where to be found.
This piece was obviously produced in response to John Lee Hancock's 2004 "The Alamo," with the first third of documentary discussing various historically inaccurate Hollywood movies. Clips from silent films and from the John Wayne Alamo movie were interesting, but since the documentary producers likely did not have the rights to either the 2004 Alamo movie or Disney's "Davy Crockett," the interviewees were only able to refer awkwardly to aspects those films.
The second third of the movie looked more like a local TV station interviewed the world's biggest Alamo memorabilia collector, then covered this year's Alamo battle re-enactment. I am sure the members of the San Antonio Living History Association absolutely LOVE this documentary because it is mostly about them and their awesome hats from the period.
The final third of the documentary was a mishmash of partially-related historical political data. This laborious section of the documentary didn't follow a discernible story-telling pattern but appeared to be thrown in at the end because mercifully stopping the piece in under an hour just wasn't happening. It's Texas, after all, and everything is bigger there.
I love a good documentary and picked this movie up for $1 at the local Goodwill. I think I overpaid.
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