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Film Analysis (History)

This assignment encourages students to choose a historically-themed film that focuses on one prominent event or personality during the twentieth century, and to compare it to other historical sources.  Students should come away from this assignment with a greater sense of how film has shaped our commonly-held and taken-for-granted beliefs about what has happened in the past.  This assignment is designed to encourage students to think carefully about the media they consume and to develop critical viewing skills.  Additionally, this assignment will encourage students to actively engage the past, and conduct some authentic historical research.
 
ORGANIZING YOUR PAPER
Your paper should follow the following structure.  However, you should not feel constrained by this structure either.  Feel free to add other analysis, information or observations.  Not all of these questions may be relevant to your film or topic.  Try to include a discussion of as many of these questions as possible.
 
A. Introduction
a. What is the Plot? Setting?
b. Who made the film?
 
B. The History
a. Is it accurate?
b. Are events presented realistically?
c. Is the chronology correct?
 
C. Setting, Details, and Design
a. Are locations, costumes, and sets accurate?
b. Do buildings look realistic?
c. Does the overall look of the film reflect the period?
d. Has the filmmaker included details that enhance the historical atmosphere and viewing experience?
D. Behavior
a. Do the characters speak and act as people in their time, situation and class did?
b. Are gender relationships accurately rendered?
 
E. Agenda, Values, Effects
a. What values underline the film?
b. What does the filmmaker do to influence feelings and emotions?
c. What sore of heroic and villainous icons are presented and supported in the film?
d. What messages did the filmmakers wish to convey?
e. Does the film succeed in producing the desired effect?
 
F. Audience/Reception
a. How commercially successful was this film?  What did critics or other commentators think of it?
b. When was the film make?  What was the social or political context that the film was created for/in? (i.e. Films make during WWII or during the Cold war often have a particular perspective that later films to not.  Similarly, Americans films often differ in perspective than foreign films.)
c. What audience was this film created for? (age? Gender?)
d. What was the purpose of this film – was it successful?
e. In what ways might this film have shaped the public’s understanding of history?
 
G. Conclusions
a. To what extent is this film a good representation of the past?
b. How useful is this film as a tool to understanding past events?
c. In what ways is the film a historical artifact that tells us something about the place and time (audience) it was created for?  (Is the film a primary source in some ways?)