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Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train (2004)

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The life and times of Howard Zinn: the historian, activist, and author of several classics including "A Peoples History of the United States". Archival footage, and commentary by friend, colleagues and Zinn himself.

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Title: Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train (2004)

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Narrator (voice)
Daniel Berrigan ...
Himself
...
Himself
...
Herself (archive footage)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
...
Himself (archive footage)
Daniel Ellsberg ...
Himself (archive footage)
Tom Hayden ...
Himself (archive footage)
Staughton Lind ...
Himself
David Rovics ...
Himself
John Silber ...
Himself (archive footage)
...
Herself (archive footage)
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Storyline

The life and times of Howard Zinn: the historian, activist, and author of several classics including "A Peoples History of the United States". Archival footage, and commentary by friend, colleagues and Zinn himself.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

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Details

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Release Date:

18 June 2004 (USA)  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$3,378 (USA) (2 July 2004)

Gross:

$120,250 (USA) (18 February 2005)
 »

Company Credits

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Dr. Howard Zinn was one of the first American authors to write a comprehensive history of the barriers erected by the U.S. Government to prevent equality and constitutionally guaranteed rights amongst the working classes and minority races, and the subsequent violent clashes between protestors, the government, and corporate soldiers. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Zinn, Howard: We grow up in a controlled society, where we are told that when one person kills another person, that is murder, but when the government kills a hundred thousand, that is patriotism.
See more »

Soundtracks

There Is Power In A Union
Written by Billy Bragg
Performed by Billy Bragg
Courtesy of Chrysalis Music
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User Reviews

 
The True Believers
25 July 2006 | by (Georgia) – See all my reviews

This documentary travels deep inside leftist political circles and, perhaps, deep inside any group of true believes who have held the same beliefs for their entire life. The major issues are settled, and there is distrust and an assumption of hostility in the actions of anyone or anything which counters those settled beliefs.

For example, the story of when Dr. Zinn traveled to North Vietnam at the invitation of the NVA to bring 3 POWs home is a story of a peace-loving man traveling to a foreign land in order to bring home three countrymen. There is a blindness to the idea that, for the Soviets and NVA, the propaganda value of undermining US policy by 'negotiating' with a sympathetic leftist superseded any other consideration; this idea is not even given the consideration of a mention, nor are the potential consequences of Dr. Zinn's private diplomacy. Of course, Zinn marvels at the loveliness of the North Vietnamese culture, including having a grand time during a subterranean sing-a-long, and he, of course, makes the requisite denunciation of American bombing. He scoffs at the idea that Americans might have been abused by the NVA, having a good chuckle at the expense of an official who believed that American POWS were being abused; the documentary makes no mention of what's been learned since Zinn had his chuckle. Then, upon Dr. Zinn's return home, he is baffled by the US military and government's desire to examine, debrief, and return the 3 POWs, as opposed to Zinn being allowed to do so, and it is made plain that this is yet another example where a lying hostile US government thwarted the actions of a peace-loving man.

That is not to say Dr. Zinn didn't face other trials. He spoke out against the board of trustees of his university, and there's intense speculation that the tenure he received that day might have been put in jeopardy because of the dark forces at work on the board of trustees. He had to teach at a school with a university president who disagreed with him on politics. He has been arrested after a peace rally where he spoke turned into a riot. He also believes the FBI might have had agents among the crowd at some of his peace rallies. Yet, he has come through and triumphed despite these hardships.

And his triumph includes his belief that there is no need to obey the law. Law, Dr. Zinn tells us, is made by 'flawed, limited, petty' men who then treat it as a 'holy writ', rendering law and courts based on said law as arbitrary as the shifting sands. That there are peaceful methods, such as elections and courts, for changing laws is insufficient. Direct, passionate, and selected rioting will get the government's attention and change things for the better.

Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg also offer commentary.


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