Film Analysis of the New World.

This is a mini-research paper, in which you use targeted research to evaluate the authenticity of a feature film about colonial history. Your task is to watch the film with a critical eye and evaluate it as you would any other historical source.


First, select a movie from the list below.  These films should be widely available, either at the Wesleyan Library or at Blockbuster, Netflix, Amazon, ITunes, or other movie-rental stores.  The professor may have some of them in his personal library, so ask him if you want to borrow them.  Watch your selected movie carefully, taking notes as you watch.  Compile a thorough outline of the main characters, themes, and plot developments.  Then, think about how the film’s central issues and how it portrays them.   For guidance on film analysis from an historian’s perspective, read the attached excerpt from Paul B. Weinstein’s “History Written With Lightning.”


Your next step is to research the actual historical world the film presents by analyzing primary and secondary sources. Attached is a partial list of good primary and secondary sources available in our library or on the internet.  Use this research to evaluate the presentation of the past in the film.  In fact, after doing this research, you may want to watch the film again with fresh eyes in order to make an effective comparison between the film and “reality.”


Since this is a relatively short paper, you should focus your comparison on a few major issues.  For instance, you may want to evaluate the film’s portrayal of technology and spirituality, or gender and sexuality, etc.  This will make the task more manageable and less intimidating


Remember, your basic mission is to compare and contrast the film with the information in the primary sources, and in the process to evaluate the accuracy of the movie.  Make sure to discuss both the ACCURACIES and INCCURACIES in the film, and then to come to some overall balanced judgment on whether the film earns a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” from historians.


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