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Choose a film from our list of Films about American History or such books in our bibliography that provide long lists as those by the Bolams, Burnett, Cameron, Carnes, Christensen, Crowdus, Karsten, Niemi, Pitts, Rocquemore, Michael Stevens, Tracey, Vankin, and others. Peter Rollins' The Columbia Companion to American History on Film should also be useful. The film you choose should have a specific historical record that you can study, assemble, investigate, learn from, immerse yourself in -- just as the producer, the director, and the writer of the screenplay might have done.

For example, a film on:

There must be an historical record to research and study. You will not be working just with a film but a film and its historical basis. Not every "period piece," for instance, will work. There must be a reasonable amount of specific accessible source material outside the film to research. There must be documentable sources. In fact, to show more clearly the film-maker's purpose, the ideal subject would have several and even conflicting historical records.

The film should deal with "American history," not just with any real person or event from the past. That ups the ante a bit. Be prepared to make a case that the subject of the film rises to a level of national importance, a level of national significance. Look for a film about a subject that you think is or should be part of our cultural memory. Look for a subject that is, would be, or should be touched on in school. Try to find a subject that you think affects us or reflects us as a nation.

Look for a film in which the maker is consciously reflecting on, responding to, or, most especially, interpreting history. A film that tells us about a specific historical subject or uses that historical subject to tell us about something in its own time -- or in our time. A film that is consciously trying to "make history," to have us see our history in a certain way. A film, for instance, by a socially/politically conscious film-maker with an agenda. A film that constructs, creates, challenges, transforms, revises history.

Choose a film that you could reasonably argue should be seen by any person interested in American history. A film that will enable you to learn more about American history through your research, and that will enable you to teach others about American history through your project on the web. A film that you can imagine being assigned in American History, American Literature, or American Studies courses. A film whose subject is worthy of intellectual attention.

Perhaps look for a film that has been little worked on, on which you could do original research, or that provides the opportunity for you to visit a locale (like Wounded Knee) or a resource site (like a museum) where there is further information.

We will want our archive to span historical periods, to have variety, so don't just focus on recent history, recent films, or obvious choices.

Consider little known as well as better known subjects; consider older films, even silent ones.

For a quick plot summary and description of unfamiliar films and maybe some reviews, the Internet Movie Database might be helpful but also see the various compilations of historical films in our select bibliography.

Now, you may not be familiar with many films on our list, especially older ones, or you may have trouble thinking about films that deal with history that would work. So, perhaps the thing to do is to work from the other direction. What figure, era, or event in American history do you know a good bit about, so that you can bring that knowledge to bear on a film? Or, conversely, what figure, era, or event haven't you studied but would like to learn more about through a project on a film? Identify subjects like this, and then use our Films about American History list or one of the resources on our selected bibliography to help specify some films that could fit.