"In the movie theater we are for a time prisoners of history." (Robert A. Rosenstone)
"Historical films help to shape the thinking of millions." (Robert Brent Toplin)
"Hollywood cinema is an unparalleled expression of national culture." (Robert Burgoyne)
Historical film: "the balcony of History" (Roland Barthes)
"Hollywood has often attempted to influence history by turning out films consciously designed to change public attitudes." (Peter C. Rollins)
WHY STUDY FILM AND AMERICAN HISTORY?
Nations are imagined communities.
Nations depend for their existence on cultural fictions.
Public memory serves patriotism.
The stories we tell each other about our past constitute our group identity.
History makes nations.
History is our civic glue.
Without a history we are not a We.
Our nation's Remembrancers, then, have enormous power.
Our custodians of memory have us in custody.
It matters who tells our stories, what they tell, and why.
For history is never innocent.
For the national narrative can be a hymn or a curse.
For a nation's memory is always susceptible to political amnesia.
in the modern world, film has augmented the enormous power of history.
Film reaches everybody.
And film writes history with lightning.
cinema has always been writing the history that makes our nation.
If we are to understand how we have been shaped,
we must study reel American history.
If we are to guard ourselves against the guardians of memory,
we must challenge reel American history.
If we are to shape the kind of future we know we need,
we must influence reel American history.