Friday, January 26, 2007

September Dawn: Hollywood History Fails Us Again

I usually have little confidence in movies based on historical events or people. Most of the time, actual human drama, comedy, love, and sadness is sacrificed on the altar of “artistic license.” How that “art” is defined is usually in the mind of an avaricious producer or talentless screenwriter, who slaps the labels of “inspired by true events” or “based upon on true story” in the hope of drawing in audiences who yearn, consciously or not, for understanding of how their world has been shaped by past events. Rarely do we see what actually happened, or gain that comprehension.

It appears that this Hollywood version of history will fail us again. What could have been an analysis of the morality of Western expansion, a study of theocracies, or even how lack of communication can create disasters will become “A love story set during a tense encounter between a wagon train of settlers faces off against a renegade Mormon group.” What is so upsetting is that the real history, whatever we have of it, is compelling. Disappointingly, what we will probably see is a one-sided portrayal that will leave the taste in many viewers mouths that Mormons are, as they were, quietly violent. This is in spite of historical truth or present-day acceptance and attempts at reconciliation on the part of all parties.

Perhaps that is why I find documentaries compelling. They try to answer questions about history, though I admit they are driven by the documentarian’s version of “compelling history.” I still yearn to watch films like The Queen and The Last King of Scotland, though I recognize that they have been fictionalized as well.

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