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

Not Rated | | Documentary | 18 June 2004 (USA)
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.


Deb Ellis, Denis Mueller

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With the tremendous success of his book, A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn radically changed the way Americans see themselves. His friend Noam Chomsky says that Zinn ... See full summary »

Directors: Olivier Azam, Daniel Mermet


Credited cast:
Matt Damon ... Narrator (voice)
Daniel Berrigan Daniel Berrigan ... Himself
Howard Zinn ... Himself
Alice Walker ... Herself (archive footage)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Noam Chomsky ... Himself (archive footage)
Daniel Ellsberg ... Himself (archive footage)
Tom Hayden ... Himself (archive footage)
Staughton Lind Staughton Lind ... Himself
David Rovics David Rovics ... Himself
John Silber John Silber ... Himself (archive footage)
Marian Wright Edelman ... Herself (archive footage)


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




Not Rated






Release Date:

18 June 2004 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Говард Зинн: Как сохранить нейтралитет в поезде See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,658, 20 June 2004, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$120,250, 20 February 2005
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Did You Know?


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 »


[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 »


The Ludlow Massacre
Written by Woody Guthrie
Performed by Woody Guthrie
Courtesy of Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings
See more »

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User Reviews

What does it mean to be American?
27 August 2006 | by wrlangSee all my reviews

Howard Zinn; you can't be neutral on a moving train is about the life of activist Howard Zinn who dedicated his life to educating people on their rights as human beings and as American citizens by becoming a history teacher. The axiom, those who ignore history are destined to repeat it, is absolutely true. And most Americans have no interest in real history. Rising out of poverty in NYC, Zinn tells of his life through the 30s to his death. He mentions many of the true American struggles like the Ludlow Massacre, where unarmed miners and their families working in company owned world could not get out from under the thumb of business and were massacred by the National Guard during a union strike. Something that most of today's so called American citizens don't seem to mind. An event that never made the news or the history books. In his heyday during the 60s with the racial strife, Zinn was targeted with so many other Americans to be pushed out of America. Something that is also an acceptable notion in the present – America, love it or leave it – an idiots axiom. There are very few people younger than I and very few people in general who can appreciate the life of American's without the rights we are squandering today. Ignorance is bliss. While I admire Zinn's zeal and agree with his impression of America and Americans lack of desire to know, I don't agree with all his attempts to humanize our enemies of the past. I would encourage everyone to admit their ignorance and choke down as much Zinn as they can handle to try and wake them up with another point of view and another set of possibilities.

The biggest mistake of the protesters of the 60s was that they assumed all Americans were educated about their right to engage in civil disobedience and that the cared about human life in general. Protesters assumed that the troops coming home from Viet Nam understood the wrongness of the war and chose to support it rather than engage in disobedience and risk the penalties. The average American, desiring a wave less and secure existence, had no real concept of any of the inconsistencies the war. They were quite content to kill the farmer that they were told threatened their way of life.

How many ignorant people today feel that democracy means the American way of life? How many ignorant people today forget – and to the REPUBLIC, for which it stands… not the democracy.

How many ignorant people today can't make the connection between crack use and war? The bottom line – if you don't have enough time to understand to another American's point of view, you don't have enough time to be an American. A country of the people, by the people, and for the people.

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