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Not one person even recommends this wonderful documentary by one of the
United States most cherished historians. This seems to be a truly sad
state of affairs.
I first heard of Mr. Zinn, like many Non-US-Citizens (I'm Swiss/Algerian) through a plug by Matt Damon's character in "Good Will Hunting".
After loving Gus van Sant's movie for almost 15 years and doing some research about Mr. Zinn I have now watched this movie and the Matt Damon-narrated "You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train".
All I can say to people around the world and especially Americans, "SEE IT". It's more than worth it, to see history with a different pair of eyes, different view-points and a healthy dose of hope for humanity.
The words that are being spoken here are as true and relevant as they ever were. The passion by Mr. Damon, Viggo Mortensen, Morgan Freeman, Sean Penn, Marisa Tomei, Josh Brolin, Jasmin Guy and many others is clearly visible and audible.
I truly hope this review will be useful to you :-) Because "if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory." Thank your Mr. Zinn for your words, thoughts, inspirations and to the many people involved in the making of this documentary.
Serge Zehnder 10 February 2010.
A number of actors, musicians., etc. read writings and letters by the
rebels of American history, like John Brown. Others read quotes showing
some of the darker side of our history, like Abraham Lincoln's early
determination NOT to free the slaves. And still others read words by
unknown 'regular people' commenting on their times. Mixed with this are
folk songs performed by Eddie Vedder, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and
Moving and informative, this is not, 'fair and balanced', nor does it pretend to be. The idea is to take a specific perspective on American history, from the time of the Declaration of Independence on, as a nation forged, and constantly changed by rabble rousers and revolutionaries, from Thomas Jefferson to Fredrick Douglas to Susan B. Anthony.
I was fascinated and disturbed to read the vitriol that this project has brought out from the right, and the sometimes mindless knee-jerk counter reactions from the left - quickly degenerating into the old 'you're a commie who hates America!' 'Oh yeah? Well you're a fascist who hates what America stands for!' child like spats.
Zinn and his approach is neither the first nor last word on American History, but it surely raises important questions, and teaches ideas that were certainly not part of my public school education. (e.g. the fascinating distinction between the Declaration of Independence as a more 'left wing' idealistic document ('All men are created equal') and the Constitution, which was more conservative, and enshrined ideas such as slavery as part of the basis of the country).
And while it's clear the film has a 'liberal' political point of view, to say - as many have - that a film full of the words of those who helped fight to change America for the better is somehow 'anti- American' astonishes me.
Since when is holding a different political viewpoint 'anti- American'? The greatness of this country has been it's willingness to change, grow, challenge itself, right its wrongs and attempt to be a nation that gives voice to people from countless backgrounds and points-of-view. This film reminds us of that. Not quite sure how that makes it 'anti-American'.
There is no contradiction between patriotism and a questioning mind that seeks to look honestly at our past, uncover historic wrongs, determine to right them and avoid them in future and celebrate those who fought for the freedom of their race, or sex, etc.
My only quibble with the film is that not all the readers bring the same level of passion, commitment (or, let's face it, acting talent) to their readings. But it was not enough of a problem to keep me from being constantly involved and moved.
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