History on Film: New Series Introduction

by tigermanifesto

Sadly, I won't be getting to this film anytime soon.

Sadly, I won’t be getting to this film anytime soon.

My amateur interest in film my professional interest in history work well together since Marxism forms the underlying foundations of my thought on both. Still, I tend to keep them separate because they have different goals, different means of understanding, and different subjects. This new series of posts is designed to get these two interests into a conversation. This does not mean evaluation films on the basis of their fidelity to historical sources or scholarly interpretation. That method betrays the specific way that movies construct meaning and should be criticized. Rather, I’m interested in what uses history has for filmmakers in telling stories.

To understand better, imagine that history was a character in the films I’ll be addressing. That character plays a larger or lesser role and that role has a different substance in each film. Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor has a rather different aim in using history than a Pasolini film, which again differs from how history works in period dramas or biopics. In short, I’m interested in films that use history to achieve a certain effect. That effect might be a better or worse one, but my focus is not on accuracy but the way that films appropriate history for their own stories. Whether using history as backdrop, as a politically charged message, or a moral parable, these filmmakers all take historical subjects and run with them one way or another.

Below is a list of the first set of films I will be covering along with expected release dates. This series will be regular, published every Saturday on as consistent a basis as I can manage along with school work and grad school applications. They will be shorter or longer depending on what kind of material I can get into and how inspired or incensed I am by a particular piece.

  1. Procedural History in Che directed by Stephen Soderbergh (November 8, 2014)
  2. Polemical History in Edward II directed by Derek Jarman (November 15, 2014)
  3. Fantastical History in My Winnipeg directed by Guy Maddin (November 22, 2014)
  4. Inspirational History in Red Detachment of Women directed by Xie Jin (November 29, 2014)
  5. Documentary History in The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 directed by Göran Olsson (December 6, 2014)