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First Memo…

The issues with my first memo are simple:  I lacked clarity and I generalized.  Instead of honing in on particular aspects of a scene, I drew broad deductions that weren’t exactly evident from the film as much as other outside information.  I met with Shannon and Dr. Ingram to discuss my writing and we focused mainly on how to make my points in very concise ways.  I’m happy with my work because I didn’t get an A, and even more happy because now I know where to take it to be a stronger and more mature writer down the road.

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Scarlett goes out from the house to look for the doctor.  She is hardly making her way among people shouting and running in all directions.  After a moment, she becomes dumbstruck with the scene of soldiers lying on the ground, being wounded and some of them dying.  At that point, the long, deep and melancholy music comes up.  As the music becomes louder and the camera slowly pulls back upward, the entire screen is filled with hundreds of casualties groaning and having no one to give them treatment.  Then, the camera goes upward and shows a close shot of the Confederates’ flag flapping on top of a nearby building.

Through this important scene, the director, Victor Fleming, delivers two messages to the audience: the south’s suffering and its determined spirit.  Using hundreds of the supporting cast, the music and the long shot, Fleming made the viewers visualize how overwhelming, chaotic and distressful it was in the south.  This imagery helps the viewers sympathize with the south which is one of the aims of the film.

After this destruction scene, by showing the flag fluttering in the air, Fleming portrays hope, strength and unwavering spirit of the south.  The close shot of the flag foreshadowed how the south will revive and survive in the aftermath of the Civil War.

These two messages: the depredation and indefatigable attitude of the south are the recurring motifs in the film.  Fleming demonstrated how much the south suffered through various scenes: the casualties, the whole city burning, people starving, etc.  He also made the viewers see the determination of the south by use of symbols, strong-willed characters, and how they changed and survived through many difficulties.

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First Assignment

One of my favorite films which I think can depict the historical significance is “The Pianist”, a 2002 film directed by Roman Polanski.  The film focuses on how a Jewish-Polish pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman, went through and survived the Holocaust.  I think this film is historically important because it highlights the fact that truth can be much more complex than we think it is.
As its title shows, The Pianist gives the account of a single person’s experience during the Holocaust.  The movie review from “Reel Cinema” website observes, “The Pianist has no heroes, there is no story of triumph.  It is simply the story of one man, who could be anyone, his experience of the holocaust and his survival.”  The director, Polanski, did not turn the character into the image of a hero.  Instead, he kept the truth that Szpilman survived mainly because of help and kindness from other people.  This film reminded me of a reality that humans are very vulnerable in the face of such horrible events and most of the people who came out unharmed could do so due to good luck and help from others.
Another significant point of the film expresses that truth is not simple as a black-and-white subject.  When Szpilman was found by Wilm Hosenfeld, a German officer, Hosenfeld did not kill him, and yet, unexpectedly, he helped him and brought him food and clothes.  Here, the important thing is that there was no one else when they met.  Not being watched by anyone, Hosenfeld could be himself and did what ‘he’ believes.  So, this point of the film proves that there are, in fact, diverse views toward Jews among Germans.  In the same way, the film did not omit the truth that not all Jews were oppressed people.  There were some Jews who were disloyal to their own people.  As one of the imdb movie reviews has also noted, “All was not as noble and dignified as some other films have treated this ugly side of war.”
We can also see the unpredictability and irony of life in this film, in this reality.  Szpilman, a Jew whose fate was to die actually lived until 2000; however, Hosenfeld, a German captain with power died unexpectedly in a Soveit prisoner-of-war camp.  Much more than we expect, things usually turn out the other way around in real life.
To conclude, I personally believe that this film is an important piece for writing history because of its honesty and truthfulness.  The Pianist captures the complexity and diversity of truth.

Works Cited
1. “The Pianist movie review. Directed by Roman Polanski. WWII Drama.” Reel Cinema. 31 Aug. 2009.  <http:// http://www.geocities.com/smvgrey/pianist.html&gt;
2. Jotix100. “The Pianist (2002).” IMDb.  21 Jan 2003.  31 Aug 2009.  <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0253474&gt;
3. “The Pianist (2002) film – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.”  WIKIPEDIA.  31 Aug 2009.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pianist_(2002_film)&gt;
4. Ebert, Roger.  “The Pianist:: rogerebert.com:: Reviews.” roger ebert.com. Jan 3 2003. 31 Aug 2009. <http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20030103/REVIEWS/301030302/1023&gt;

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In 1985, the film The Color Purple debuted in movie theaters to critical acclaim. The movie was edited by Steven Spielberg and the novel, by Alice Walker, of the same name hit book shelves three years before in 1982.  The Color Purple followed the “trials and tribulations of black women in the turn-of-the-century south,” and how they conquered abuse, poverty, and lack of education, to forge a better future.

The movie begins with a young woman, no older than fourteen, in labor inside a poor, dilapidated shack-house with only a small lantern for light.  We soon find out that the young girl, Celie, has just given birth to her second child, and this one, like the first, is by her father.  It is the early 1900s and is obvious through Celie’s matter of fact tone and the way she discusses her ordeal that this is, if not commonplace, not out of the ordinary.  In fact as the movie goes along, Celie’s father takes on a young teen bride and “goes after” Celie’s younger sister.

Historically, sexual abuse is considered to have been rampant during that time.  It is believed that three out of five young women of the time experienced some sort of abuse and one out of every male child.   The movie quoted one woman as saying, “a girl child, just ain’t safe in a family of mens…”  This begins to show just how wide spread the problem was, and to some degree still is.  The blunt way in which The Color Purple addressed sexual abuse, was disturbing, if not surprising.   But it explains quite clearly the over-arching effect this abuse had on children and the women they grew to become.

The movie also dealt with color and class issues within the black community.  After Celie is married off against her will, her new husband, Albert, and his father often called her black and ugly and “nappy-headed.”  In fact when we are first introduced to what would soon become one of Celie’s best friends, the women says to her, “You shole is ugly.”  Before this movie, outside of the black community, many people did not know that there are colorism issues.  One is considered “ugly” if they are too dark, or if their hair if too “nappy.”  The Color Purple brought this issue to the forefront; spotlighting problems began by whites, but adopted by African Americans.

I believe the most important historical significance of the movie, however, is that The Color Purple gave people a glimpse of African American people after slavery, but before the Civil Rights Movement.  It is easy, looking at history, to believe that blacks fell back into obscurity after they fought for their freedom, or worse, simply disappeared until it was time to march on Washington.  But the movie portrayed people active and fighting for rights that they still had not been granted.  In the movie, the outspoken Sofia (Celie’s daughter-in-law) is beaten and jailed for several years for daring to hit a white man who had slapped her.  There’s also Celie’s sister, Nettie, who goes to Africa and becomes a missionary—certainly not the expected plight of people who were still considered Negros during that time period.

This era for African Americans was considered an enigma to some.  By making The Color Purple, the director, Steven Spielberg (and by close extension, the author, Alice Walker) brought this point in history to life for the average person.

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First Memo

The Greatest Debate the Debaters Faced

The 2007 film The Great Debaters captures a story of a debate team’s struggle to make it to the top. Set in Marshall, Texas in the 1930s, the film emphasizes the team’s fight not only to win debates but also to make a difference in the world they live in. With the guidance of a determined teacher and the encouragement of fellow African-Americans, four students were able to start a war that wouldn’t end until justice was met.

During the 1930s, especially in southern states such as Texas, the Jim Crow laws were enacted throughout United States. These laws were put in place to establish the idea that blacks and whites are “separate but equal.”  However, if two groups are seen as separate how could they possibly be equal? The lives of blacks and whites during this time period were far from equal and quite separate. Blacks were seen as inferior by whites and were forced to get food from the back of restaurants instead of in them, go to poor schools, use inadequate bathrooms and water fountains, and forced to live an undeserved life. This inferiority was further implied through intimidation and fear, because if the blacks were not obedient to these laws they were either beaten or, most of the time, lynched. The film seized such fear in a scene where the debate team encounters a lynch mob. Late at night as the team had been driving to get to one of its debates, they had gotten lost and drove into a wooded area. When the car had stopped the team noticed a fellow black person burned at the stake and hanging from a tree, and then saw a mob of hateful white men staring at them in confusion. In this scene, the tension and fear that is amongst the teacher and his students also builds up in the audience. The silence in the car and the scared and helpless looks on the students’ faces would make any person feel like a victim, scared and despondent. Yet, the thought of having to deal with such treatment causes one to ask the question, how were the blacks able to survive such times? The answer to this seemingly unanswerable question is shown in the film.

The night before the team’s most important debate, the team’s temporary leader changes plans and hands over his position as a debater to his fellow teammate. Unfortunately, his teammate is hesitant about this decision because of a poor performance in his last debate. Despite his teammate’s emotions, the team leader would not let his teammate give up the opportunity because he knew how hard they all worked to get where they were. This is how the blacks survived. They had each other to depend on and talk to in the time of need. When one felt like giving up the fight, the group was there to let that person know that they had support. This togetherness is what made the Wiley College debate team’s arguments so strong and their story one of a kind.

The most touching part of the film occurs at the Harvard debate when the young black boy who once doubted himself stood in front of a crowd of white adults and presented his argument. He began his case by describing what he and his teammates had seen that night in the woods, and how hurt and ashamed he was of that experience. Yet, the sense of pity that once filled the room was removed when power came to the boy’s speech as he claimed, “an unjust law is no law at all and therefore I have the right to resist.” In this moment of the film, one can’t help but to gain a sense of empowerment and pride whether Black, White, Hispanic, or any other type of race because it takes true faith to stand up alone and defend yourself. All in all, this final scene in the movie is not only strong because of the emotion that it brings to the audience, but because as a people blacks chose the latter of the boy’s argument and used civil disobedience instead of violence to make a change for the better.

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1st movie memo

             A cleverly developed interracial relationship, little dosages of racism, and a writer’s block can describe the movie Corrina, Corrina. This film portrays a black woman, who is a brilliant writer and is force by society to work as a maid to support herself financially. Corrina can be seen as the Afro-Centric Mary Poppins. As she is job hunting, she stumbles upon a broken family that is desperately trying to rebuild itself. The broken family includes little Molly and her father Manny. The mother died recently from some unknown cause. Through this loving story, the audience can sense how thick the lines were between Caucasians and African Americans. This may seem like a diluted film when dealing with racism, but it is transparent that racial issues did exist when screening some scenes.
             Corrina, Corrina was made in 1994, but it was set in 1959. During the 1950s, African Americans were still struggling to be considered and treated like equal individuals. This movie exemplifies that some of the most gifted individuals, were not given a chance to prove themselves, because of racial differences. Also, the audience could tell that being, not only African American, but also a woman in the 1950s was fairly difficult. In the movie there was a Chinese Restaurant scene where Corrina, Molly, and Manny were having dinner. Corrina later excused herself to the restroom. As she walked to the restroom a Caucasian male called her waiter and grabbed her by the arm. He told her that his wife spilled food over the table. Manny, heroically, came to Corrina’s defense. Unfortunately, this action caused rude remarks from some individuals.
                    Therefore let us conclude some of the challenges that black women faced were acceptance and gaining respect. Plus, they never had a chance to breathe the simple definition of equality, the state of being equal. If an individual can see the underlining message of this film, a poignant discovery can be made. Some people judged African Americans by their color in the 1950s, but there were still those who judged them by their character. The little girl Molly showed that looking pass someone’s differences is the key to developing a wonderful and healthy relationship. As Molly grew closer to Corrina, Manny began to notice what a wonderful person she was.
                      In the middle of the movie, an interracial relationship was conveyed to the audience. Manny had begun to fall for the Afro-Centric Mary Poppins. Corrina and Manny’s defining relationship gives details of how society reacted to this type of situation. Manny’s mother heard wind of the relationship. This woman was not the typical Southern racist Caucasian, but she was Italian and the motherly la padrona di casa. She cornered Manny and gave him some of “her” wisdom. She stated, that a fish and a bird can fall in love but where will they build there nest. This line gave the clearest understanding of what the 1950s thought of interracial relationships. This lined screamed out that interracial couples should not exist in America. The mother wanted Manny to avoid all unethical racial outcries made towards him. Also, one can sense that she may have been ashamed that her son was in love with an African American woman.
                 This movie gently highlighted the views of Americans in the 1950s.Extremely talented African Americans were denied the opportunity, just like Corrina, to prove that they are a force to be recognized. Corrina was an educated woman that was rejected by countless newspapers and magazines. Despite this fact, as the movie describes, she continued to live inside the music. Also, it established how some people felt about interracial relations. Corrina, Corrina is the semi-intense film that represented the intangible, but thick lines between white and black populations.

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Cold Mountain

The 2003 film Cold Mountain, based on Charles Frazier’s award winning novel of the same title, is centered on the lives of two separated lovers during the American Civil War.  Despite the fact that the two lead roles are played by British and Australian actors and that the majority of the scenes are shot in the Carpathian mountain range of Romania, Cold Mountain shows the dissatisfaction felt by the home front of the confederacy when a once peaceful region became crippled with local casualties and a losing war effort, and one couple’s struggle to return to the way life was before war tore them apart.

Jude Law plays Inman, a quiet carpenter sent to the front for the Confederacy days after the war begins.  Nicole Kidman plays Ada, a southern belle from Charleston who came to the mountain town of Cold Mountain, North Carolina with her father, the Reverend Monroe, played by Donald Sutherland.  The two fall in love without ever becoming intimate and realize that the new war will ultimately destroy their hope for a future together.  Inman leaves with the Confederate troops for Virginia and Ada waits for him in Cold Mountain as she promised.  The movie is a shift between present time of 1865 and the past of 1850 as Ada’s letters to Inman describing Cold Mountain reach him months later on battlefields and in hospitals along the Carolinas.  In the end the two eventually come together and conceive a child who is born to Ada after Inman is killed by the home guard who resent their union because Inman is technically a confederate deserter.

Fictional embellishment aside, the main historical significance of the story comes in the beginning during the Siege of Petersburg.  Inman is caught in the Battle of the Crater along with other men from Cold Mountain, including a Cherokee Indian and a sixteen year old boy.  Because the Confederate army was largely composed of volunteers, especially in comparison to the organized army of the Union, Indians and adolescents would have probably been found among the ranks of men fighting for the states they lived in.  Because of the North Carolina regarding deserters, all men of ability were bound by law to fight.  In the movie, the early battle scene was violent and bloody.  Men fought in mud and visibility remained limited because of the smoke from the explosion that created a crater for thousands of Union troops to be pushed into as their plan of attack backfired.   Compared to other examples of battle scenes, this one did not depict straight lines of men on hills of green grass on a clear day.  The wounded lay fallen as men stepped on them in order to preserve their own lives.

Cold Mountain is historically significant because most of the time, men did not come back home safely from battle, especially not unchanged by war.  Like in the movie, women who waited for men often became disenchanted and isolated, as society dictated that life without a partner would label them as spinsters.  Inman and Ada’s reunion in the mountains was less than probable considering the numerous wounds Inman incurred would have most likely killed him when evaluating the quality of medical care on the battlefield during the Civil War. 

Although Cold Mountain may not be the most historically accurate film set during the American Civil War, it paints a beautiful image of what life may have been like for two citizens during the Confederacy’s struggle for independence.

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