History on Film/film on History
History films have often been criticised by academics and journalists as inaccurate depictions of the past. Yet there is no escaping the fact that blockbuster history films, documentaries and docudramas are increasingly influential in shaping our understanding of historical people and events. The very controversies that erupt over so many historical films are testament to the central role that films play in making history accessible.
Robert A. Rosenstone argues that to leave history films out of the discussion of the meaning of the past is to ignore a major factor in our understanding of past events. He champions the dramatic feature as a legitimate way of doing history, even though it is largely fictional. He examines what history films convey about the past and how they convey it, demonstrating the need to learn how to read and understand this new visual world. Integrating detailed analysis of individual history films, including "Glory," "Reds, October "and "Schindler's List," Rosenstone examines:
- different types of films - American, European, Mexican and Soviet - made in different political systems and climates
- the dramatic feature, the Biofilm, the documentary and the Innovative or Opposition drama.
- the filmmaker as historian, focusing on Oliver Stone as a brilliant historian of the Vietnam era.
- how a group of works devoted to a single topic, such as the Holocaust, can engage the larger discourse
Professor Robert A. Rosenstone of the California Institute of Technology is a leading scholar in the controversial and growing field of history and film. His award winning biography of John Reed, "Romantic Revolutionary "(1975), was used as the basis of Warren Beatty's multiple Academy Award winner, "Reds, "on which Rosenstone served as historical consultant. He is author of several works of history, including "Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to Our Idea of History "(1995) "Crusade of the Left: The Lincoln Battalion in the Spanish Civil War "(1969) and "Mirror in the Shrine: American Encounters with Japan "(1988)."" He is editor of "Revisioning History: Film and the Construction of a New Past" (1995) and "Experiments in Rethinking History "(2004). He is the Founding Editor of "Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice."