The Case for Hollywood History, Francine Prose at the New York Review of Books:

It’s so much easier and less threatening to talk about whether (or how much of) a film is “true” than to confront the unpleasant—and indisputable—truth: that racial and sexual prejudice have persisted so long past the historical eras in which these films are set.

This happens quite often with student essays concerning historical films — too much attention paid to the factual discrepancies and not enough contemplation of the larger themes. I use films in my research and teaching, they’re invaluable for understanding how history has been interpreted in various ways.

One of my favorite clips for 20th Century United States history comes from World War Z. It’s the moment when people are being removed from the aircraft carrier and The Charters of Freedom are being brought on board in their place. World War Z is fictional of course, however, the human response to catastrophe, whether caused by zombies or some other force, provides a great starting point for historical discussion.