UC Santa Barbara > History Department > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 2c homepage > World History Feature Films
3 DVD covers
covers of 3 DVDs shown in extra credit film series

Hist 2c: World History, 1700-pres.

World History Feature Films

by Prof. Marcuse
(prof's homepage, Course homepage, imdb )

page created June 24, 2008, updated 1/5/15

world cultural regions listed alphabetically
1700s & 1800s
North America

Feature Films for Teaching World History?

Extra credit feature films for college World History survey course. In the introductory World History survey course at the UC Santa Barbara, I break up some 75-minute lecture periods by showing pertinent clips from documentary and feature films. I sometimes show an entire film or two in a separate evening session, and I suggest that students can view the whole film on their own. In 2008 one of my teaching assistants suggested that we show the films at the campus Multicultural Center theater for extra credit. I took the idea a step further, and decided to make an extra credit film series, with a showing or two every week.

Which films? The next step was to choose ten suitable films. Our criteria were to try to cover the major cultural areas of the world, with a preference for films made in that area (as opposed to Hollywood productions about it), and also to span the time period from the 1700s to recent times. The lists below are the films we came up with, plus some gleaned from colleagues' World History teaching websites. Due to availability and other constraints, here are the

Films I actually showed in 2008 (with dates when the events in the film take place):

Jefferson in Paris (1784; also showed 5 min. clip in lecture on Enlightenment)
Amistad (1839-41 US; showed clip in lecture on antislavery)
Twilight Samurai (1865; Meiji restoration in Japan)
Walkabout (1971 Australia; abandoned white kids saved by aborigine in outback)
Machuca (1973 Chile; rich boy meets poor girl before/during Allende assassination)
Gandhi (1905-1948; biopic, lecture clip: first non-violent action in S. Africa)
Seven Years in Tibet (1939-46; Austrian skier meets Dalai Lama in WW2 Lhasa)
Escape from Sobibor (1943 Poland; Sobibor survivor Th. Blatt spoke to our class)
Persepolis (1978-87, mostly Iran; shown in SB Human Rights film festival)
Blood Diamond (1999; Sierra Leone fisherman & Zimbabwean white mercenary)

Films shown/used in 2009:

Paradise Now (2005), 90 mins [shown on campus]
Twilight Samurai (1865 Japan)
[lecture: Kerry Kennedy, "Speak Truth to Power" -- campus event for extra credit]
Oktober (Ten Days that Shook the World) (Feb-Oct. 1917, Russia)
Gandhi (1905-1948 biopic, India)
Seven Years in Tibet (1939-46, Austria/Tibet/China)
Persepolis (1978-87 Iran)
Born into Brothels (contemporary India)

Films shown in 2011:

Burn! (1969)
Jefferson in Paris (1995 about 1784-89)
Modern Times (1937)
Twilight Samurai (1865 Japan)
Gandhi (1905-1948 biography, S. Africa & India)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 film about 1914-18 WWI in Germany)
Battleship Potemkin (1925; 1905 Russia)
La Rafle (1942 France--public showing on campus)
Cry Freedom (1970-77 apartheid South Africa)
Battle of Algiers (1966, about French colonial policy 1958-62)

Films shown in 2014:

Amistad (1997, 2:32), 1839-41 U.S.
Jefferson in Paris (1995, 2:19), 1784 Paris Oct. 22:
[The Blue Kite (1993, 2:18), 1950s & 60s China] Modern Times (1937)
Gallipoli (1:51), 1915 Australia & Ottoman Empire
Moscow Doesn't Believe in Tears (1979, 2:20), 1958 & 1979 Soviet Union (wikip.)
Cry Freedom (1987, 2:39), 1970s South Africa Dec. 10:
Persepolis (2007, 1:35), 1978-87 Iran

Policies for the extra credit films. These are the guidelines I used to give the credit:

  • Students had to write their name, the film title, and a few notes on the index card one of the TAs distributed at the screening, and give it to their TA during the showing week. The TAs collected these, and granted up to a maximum of four points extra credit on the final grade.
    • In 2011 I modified this policy: 1 point for 1 film, 2 pts for 2 films, and 3 points for 4 films.
  • If students could not attend the showing, they could obtain the film on their own and watch it. If I had a personal copy of the DVD or tape, I placed it on reserve at the library.
    • Students had to show their TA a copy of their class or work schedule showing the conflict. (We prefered them to attend the showing if possible, to fill the theater and limit distracted viewing on a small screen.)
    • They had to submit to their TA: a 1-page (ca. 250-300 word) answer to a question: How have the concepts presented in the course helped me to understand the film?
      Or: How does the film reflect some concepts taught in the course?
    • This had to be done within one week of the official showing time, including submitting the card to the student's TA in section or lecture. ("Do not come with a bunch of cards at the end of the quarter...")

Student Suggestions (not previewed yet) (back to top)

  • Jodhaa Akbar (2008, about ) love story about a political marriage of convenience between Mughal emperor Akbar the Great (1542-1605) and a Rajput princess, Jodhaa. Many of the events portrayed in the movie are based on real events. (wikipedia film page)
  • Laagan (India)
  • A Separation (2011, Iran). Story of a life in contemporary Teheran. Themes women's careers, divorce, caring for a parent with Alzheimers, living as a Muslim in a modern society with secular tendencies. (Not historical, but VERY powerful.)
  • Deanne Schultz, Filmography of World History: A Select, Critical Guide To Feature Films That Engage The Past(2007) (google books)
    • Blurb: "includes description and analysis of over 300 historical films."
      Five themes:
      History as Biography;
      Crossing Cultures;
      Civil, International and Sectarian Conflict;
      Society: Modernization and Tradition; and
      Redefining Historical Narrative.
    • Each film entry includes production data, current U.S. home videodistributors, geographical and time setting, plot description, and references to critical literature. Over half of the entries provide extended analysis of the historical interpretation the film brings to the screen. Filmography of World History argues for the potential of feature films to teach us about the past and its reconstruction in academe and popular culture.

1700s-1800s (Europe) (back to top)

  • The Mission (1986, 126 mins.) (imdb Mission page; netflix) [shown by a colleague at UCSB]
    In 1750s Paraguay Spanish Jesuit missionaries first convert, then try to defend natives against Portugese slave hunters, when the Treaty of Madrid transfers the region from Spain to Portugal. Shows the devastating effects of European politics (and culture) on indigenous peoples, in this case the Guarani.
  • Jefferson in Paris (1995, 139 mins.) (imdb Jefferson page; netflix) [shown week 2]
    VHS copy in UCSB Kerr Hall; clip shown in Lecture 4.
    Set in 1784-1789 Paris.
  • A Royal Affair (2012, 132 mins)(imdb, wikipedia, netflix): Czech/Danish/Swedish, Enlightenment theme. Nominated & won several prizes; some sex.
    ".. notorious true story of illicit love and political intrigue. In the late eighteenth century, Denmark is ruled by the spoiled King Christian VII (1749-1808), for whom governing takes a decided backseat to playing with his dog and indulging in all the pleasures of the flesh. That weakness makes him susceptible to the designs of cunning courtiers. Enter Johann Struensee, a ruggedly handsome German doctor and staunch proponent of the Enlightenment’s reformist principles, who is so well liked by the king when they meet abroad that he is asked to return with the monarch to Copenhagen as his personal physician. There Struensee discovers his political match in the king’s physically and intellectually captivating queen, Caroline Mathilde, who happens to be somewhat starved for attention.
  • Germinal (1993, 160 mins) (imdb, wikipedia, not netflix 2011; VHS at amazon), stars Gérard Depardieu and Miou-Miou.
    Multiple Oscar-nominated film closely follows the plot of Zola's 1885 novel, which is a realistic story of a coalminers' strike in northern France in the 1860s. The title refers to the name of a month of the French Republican calendar, a spring month. Germen is a Latin word which means "seed"; the novel describes the hope for a better future that seeds amongst the miners.
  • Modern Times (1936, 87 mins.)(imdb, wikipedia, $20+ at amazon)
    Charlie Chaplin classic. Lots of clips on youtube, too.
    The film is a comment on the desperate employment and fiscal conditions many people faced during the Great Depression, conditions created by the efficiencies of modern industrialization.
  • Amistad (1997, 152 mins.) (imdb Amistad page; Wikipedia; netflix) [shown week 3]
    Directed by Steven Spielberg.
    Starts with an 1839 mutiny aboard a slave ship near Cuba, follows the trial of the slaves in Connecticut. Best Amistad site, with chronology & lots of primary sources: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/amistad/AMISTD.HTM
  • Burn! (1969, 112 mins)(imdb, wikipedia; VHS-2573 at UCSB) with Marlon Brando
    A Caribbean island, 1835-1848. Nature has made it a paradise; man has made it a hell. Slaves on vast Portuguese (originally Spanish, but changed for 1969 political reasons) sugar plantations are ready to turn their misery into rebellion and the British are ready to provide the spark. They send agent William Walker (Marlon Brando) on a devious three-part mission: trick the slaves into revolt, grab the sugar trade for England, then return the slaves to servitude. Gillo Pontecorvo, the acclaimed director of "The Battle of Algiers" (1966, set in Algeria in 1959) explores colonialism and insurrection.
    Feb. 2007 review in the Monthly Review: "The Ecology of Destruction," which interprets the film in the context of the Earth Summits of 1992 and 2002.
    Note for high school teachers: women's breasts are shown.
  • Michael Collins (1996, 133 mins)(imdb, wikipedia, rotten tomatoes) with Julia Roberts & Liam Neeson
    Nationalism. in 1916-1922 Ireland: how a rebel leader is overtaken by revolutionary events

Africa (back to top)

  • Blood Diamond (2006, 143 mins.) (imdb Blood Diamond page; wiki, netflix)[shown week 10]
    With Djimon Hounsou and Leonardo DiCaprio.
    Sierra Leone, 1999. During the civil war a Mende fisherman is kidnapped and forced to work panning for diamonds. He meets up with a white Zimbabwean diamond smuggler and attempts to get his son, made into a child soldier, back.
  • Tsotsi (2005, 94 mins.) (imdb Tsotsi page; $12 at amazon)
    In post-2000 Johannisburg a hardened teenager hijacks a car, only to find a baby in the back seat. Gripping story of income inequality.
  • Cry Freedom (1987, 159 mins.) ($10 at amazon; netflix)
    Story of black South African student leader Steve Biko (1946-1977). (wiki Biko page)
  • Sometimes in April (2005, 140 mins.) (imdb page; wiki; HBO official site)
    Genocide in Rwanda, 1994. (shown by a colleague at UCSB)
  • Hotel Rwanda (2004, 121 mins.) (imdb Hotel Rwanda page; wiki; $10 at amazon)
    About a hotel employee in 1994 Rwanda who is able to rescue some Tutsis; is less graphic than Sometimes in April .
  • The Last King of Scotland (2006, 123mins.) (imdb Last King page; wiki; $10 amazon)
    1970s Uganda: dicatator Idi Amin strikes a friendship of sorts with a Scottish doctor.
  • The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980, 109 mins.) (imdb Gods page; wiki, netflix)
    (10th grade lesson plan)
    Humorous take on how Bushmen in the Kalahari meet technology in the form of a Coke bottle.
    • G.M.B.C. II (1988, 98 mins.): sequel about Xixo's kids (netflix)
  • War/Dance
  • Refugee All Stars
  • Mandela (2013)

From the Modern History in the Movies Sourcebook: The Imperial Project

  • Shaka Zulu (1986, 300 mins.--that's 5 hours, a TV series)(imdb, wikipedia)
    The life and rise to power of Shaka, the greatest Zulu king (1816-1828, but goes later).
  • Zulu Dawn (1979], 115 mins.)(imdb, wikipedia, netflix; youtube)
    Dir. Douglas Hickox, With Burt Lancaster and Simon Ward.
    A dramatization of the Battle of Isandlwana during the Anglo-Zulu war. Made after Zulu, but looks at the story before the events depicted there.
  • Zulu (1964 135 mins.)(imdb, wikipedia, netflix)
    Dir. Cy Endfield, With Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins and Michael Caine.
    The British-Zulu wars of the late 19th century. Specifically the battle of Rourke's Drift.

Asia [back to top]


  • Seven Years in Tibet (1997, 139 mins.) (Wikipedia; $10 at amazon) [shown week 9]
    With Brad Pitt.
    Based on the biography of Austrian olympic skiier Heinrich Harrer (1912-2006), who was arrested by the British during a mountain climbing expedition in India when World War II broke out in 1939. He eventually escaped into the Himalayas and trekked to the Tibetan capital Lhasa, a city closed to all foreigners. He became a friend and tutor to the young Dalai Lama, advising him when the Chinese communists invaded. They remained close friends until Harrer's death in 2006.

The following films are from the Modern History Sourcebook Films page:

  • The Last Emperor (1987, 160 mins)
    Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, With John Lone and Joan Chen.
    The Life of Puyi (1906-1967, the last emperor of China (1908-1912 and 17 days in 1917)
  • Gate of Heavenly Peace (1995, 180 mins.) (excellent Gate of Heavenly Peace website)
    Dir.Carma Hinton and Richard Gordan.
    Documentary about the June 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising. Critiques the student leaders and the government.
  • The Blue Kite (1993, 140 mins.) (imdb Lan Feng Zheng page; wiki)
    Dir. Tian Zhuangzhuang, With Yi Tian and Zhang Wenyao.
    A child is born in 1953 Beijing; on the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution from his perspective.
  • Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (1998, 99 mins.) (imdb Tian Yu page)
    Dir. Joan Chen.
    Story of a city girl sent for "re-education" to the countryside 1975. She then goes to Tibet to learn to herd horses, and is sexually exploited.

Japan (back to top)

  • Twilight Samurai (2002, 129 minutes) [shown week 6]
    In 1865 Japan (before the Meiji Restoration), Seibei is a low-level samurai, a clan warrior position that has become obsolete in the age of guns. He spends most of his time with the other samurai as a bureaucrat keeping track of the clan's stores. He prefers farming to fighting or advancing his status, and works hard to get out of debt incurred by family misfortune. But then honor calls and he must draw on his long-past training with an old swordfighting master to meet the challenge.
    This is not the same as The Last Samurai!

20th Century Europe (back to top)

  • Rosa Luxemburg (1985, 122 mins.) (imdb Rosa page; $35 VHS at amazon)
    Political biography of the famous female founder of German communism (1870-1919). Mostly while she is in prison during WW1, but flashbacks show the pre-war years.
  • Reds (1981, 194 mins.) (imdb Reds page; $15 at amazon)
    Directed by Warren Beatty, this film recounts the true story of John Reed, a radical American journalist, from 1912 to 1917. He meets Louise Bryant, who dumps her husband for Reed and becomes an important feminist and radical. After involvement with labor and political disputes in the US, they go to Russia in time for the October Revolution in 1917. Inspired, they return to the US, hoping to lead a similar revolution. The movie includes interviews with surviving participants in the events of the movie.
  • Oktober (Ten Days that Shook the World) (1928, 103 mins.) (imdb Oktober; wikipedia; $22 amazon)
    By famed Soviet film pioneer Sergei Eisenstein. Reenactment of events Feb-Oct. 1917 in Petrograd (Lenin's return). Commissioned by the government. The title is taken from John Reed's book. (clips on YouTube)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930, 132 mins.) (imdb All Quiet; wiki; $10 at amazon)
    Classic film rendition of Erich Maria Remarque's antiwar novel about German boys who signed up for WW1. There is also a 1979 TV remake (imdb 1979 version), and Sparknotes.
  • Nowhere in Africa (2001, 141 mins.) (imdb; )
    A Jewish family escapes Nazi Germany and settles in Kenya, through the daughter's eyes. Based on Stephanie Zweig's autobiography. Shows cultural adaptation (and not).
  • The Promise (1995, 118 mins.) ($18 at amazon)
    A love story between two teens, one of whom escapes East Germany across the Berlin wall in 1961. The meet in Prague in 1968, conceive a child, and are separated again. Finally, they meet in 1989.
  • Man of Marble (1976, 160 mins.) (imdb; wiki; Rottentomatoes; excellent interp. article)
    Polish film depicting the demise of a bricklayer under 1950s Stalinist socialism, through the eyes of a 1976 filmmaker. Note 12/09: this is a very complex film that should be previewed by the instructor, who needs to supply plenty of background. The interpretative article linked here should be read carefully for that background.

See also Modern History in the Movies site.

India [back to top]

  • Gandhi (1982, 188 mins.)(Wiki film page & Gandhi biography) [shown week 9]
    Clip of first nonviolent action in South Africa shown in lecture week 9. Epic biography won 8 Oscars. DVD in UCSB Kerr Hall.
    Biopic of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). (wikipedia Gandhi page)
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968, 145mins)(from Modern History Sourcebook)
    Dir. Tony Richardson, With Trevor Howard and Vanessa Redgrave. (imdb; wiki)
    Depicts the events that led to British involvement in the Crimean War against Russia (1953-56; wikipedia), including the siege of Sevastopol and the Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854, which climaxed with the heroic calvary charge of the British Light Brigade against a Russian artillery battery.
    A relatively accurate historical account by a British director. Unlike the racial motifs of the 1936 US film, social class is the major factor here (incompetent aristocratic officers).
    • (1936, 115 mins.) Dir. Michael Curtiz. With Erol Flynn. (imdb; wiki)
      Historically inaccurate, this version focuses on racial distrust. The final charge scene is very effective. Animals were indeed harmed in the making of this film (the horses fell over trip wires), inspiring the modern animal rights movement.
  • Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001, 224 mins.) (imdb; wiki; $20 amazon)
    In a high-stakes 1890s cricket match, Indian villagers face off against British soldiers in order not to pay the land tax (lagaan). A Bollywood blockbuster.
  • Born into Brothels (2004, 83 mins.) ($13 at amazon)
    Won best documentary academy award in 2004.
    Eight girls are trained to shoot video in Calcutta's red light district.

Latin America (back to top)

  • Machuca (Chile, 2004, 115 mins) (imdb Machuca page; $25 at amazon) shown week 7
    In Santiago, Chile in 1973, Salvador Allende, the first socialist president democratically elected in a Latin-American country, and the principal of Saint Patrick's School, Father McEnroe, attempts to integrate students of the upper and lower classes. The bourgeois boy Gonzalo Infante and the boy from the slum Pedro Machuca become great friends. However, the conflict on the streets leads Chile to the bloody and repressive military coup of General Augusto Pinochet on 11 September 1973, irrevocably changing their lives, their relationship, and their country.
    The school is loosely based on Saint George's College, an upper-class Catholic school in Santiago. Despite strong opposition from the wealthy clientele of the school, principal Whelan implemented a series of integrationist measures inspired by Liberation Theology, measures that eventually led to his dismissal after the military coup d'état against socialist Allende. Among these measures was the project of social integration portrayed in Machuca.
  • No (2012, 118 mins.)(imdb, wikipedia, netflix): 1988 Chile
    "When Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, facing international pressure, calls for a referendum on his presidency in 1988, opposition leaders persuade a brash young advertising executive, René Saavedra, to spearhead their campaign. With scant resources and constant scrutiny by the despot's watchmen, Saavedra and his team devise an audacious plan to win the election and free their country from oppression.
  • Juarez (1939, 132mins) [from Modern History Sourcebook]
    Dir. William Dieterle, With Bette Davis and Maul Muni.
    On the reign the puppet-emperor Maximilian, his wife Carlotta (Bette Davis), and their chief antagonist, Benito Juarez, the so-called "Abraham Lincoln of Mexico"
  • Motorcycle Diaries (2005, 127 mins.) ($6 at amazon)
    The story of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara's young adult life. (1928-1967: wiki Che page)

Middle East (back to top)

  • Battle of Algiers (1966, 121 mins.)(imdb, wikipedia; commondreams & slate re: 2003 Pentagon screening)
    Based on occurrences 1954-57 during the Algerian War (1954–62) against French colonial occupation in North Africa. Often taken, by insurgent groups and states alike, as an important commentary on urban guerilla warfare. It occupies the 120th place on Empire Magazine's list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. Ths highly dramatic film is about the organisation of a guerrilla movement and the methods used to decimate it by the colonial power. Shows how the freedom fighters regrouped and expanded into the casbah, only to face a systematic attempt by French paratroopers to wipe them out.
    Slate compares it to the 1982 Algerian film The Sacrificed (I couldn't find info on this film), which shows the fighting between various Algerian factions.
  • Children of Heaven (1997, 83 mins.) (netflix Children page; wiki; $12 at amazon)
    A boy and his sister need to share a pair of sneakers in contemporary Tehran. Wonderful depiction of daily life, with a moralistic bent reflecting a positive image the Iranian government might approve of. cover of Persepolis
  • Persepolis (2007, 95 mins.) (imdb Persepolis page)
    In this animated film based on Marjane Satrapi's graphical (comic book) autobiographies, a rebellious teenager gets on the wrong side of the 1979 Iranian revolution, is sent to Austria to school, then goes to France, from where she returns to Iran. (Marjane Satrapi wikipedia page)
  • Promises (2001, 106 mins.)(imdb; $27 at amazon)
    Documentary follows 7 Jewish/Israeli and Palestinian children from 1995 to 1998, with follow-up.

North America (back to top)

See also Modern History in the Movies site.

Oceania (back to top)

  • Walkabout (1971, 100 mins)walkabout dvd (imdb, wikipedia, $23 at amazon). [shown week 7]
    Depicts the story of two white children abandoned in the outback. Near death, they encounter an aborigine boy who has been sent on his walkabout, a ritual banishment in which he has to survive in the wilderness. The contradiction between the Western and aborigine cultures and values is the theme of this poignant film. By the way, the actor who plays the aborigine boy later played the adult tracker in
  • Rabbit Proof Fence (2002, 94 mins.) (imdb; wikipedia, $12 at amazon)
    The true story of three half-caste aboriginal girls (Molly Craig, 14, and her sister and cousin, 10 and 8), who in 1931 escape a government camp where they are to be trained as domestic servants. They trek 1,500 miles, using said fence for guidance. Based on Doris Pilkington Garimara's book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence.
  • Whale Rider (2003, 101 mins.) (imdb, wikipedia, $10 at amazon, netflix)
    12-year-old Pai trains herself in the ways of the Maori people.

Links (back to top)

  • Modern History in the Movies, part of the online Internet Modern History Sourcebook, by Paul Halsall
    • Very eurocentric, but still good for ideas. Some films above taken from this site.
  • TeachWithMovies.org World History page
    need to subscribe at $1/month.
  • Helen Joyce, Using Films in the Social Studies: World History Helen Joyce book cover(TeachingPoint publishers, undated [2007]), 186 pages.
    • $60 book with activities, worksheets and answer keys for 14 films, namely:
    • 1492: Conquest of Paradise
    • War and Peace
    • All Quiet on the Western Front
    • Gandhi
    • Exodus
    • The Last Emperor
    • Cry Freedom
    • Hotel Rwanda
    • Based on the samples, I'd say this isn't worth it for a college course. Indeed, it is intended for high school use.
    • Brief review for the Michigan State Univ. on-line journal Education Review
  • 2003 MIT World History course "Semi-Optional Film Series/Project"
    1. Last Supper: Not to be confused with 1990s film starring Cameron Diaz, this 1977 film tells the story of a plantation owner who casts himself as Jesus in the last supper among his slave apostles.
    2. Danton: For those of you that saw the Return of Martin Guerre, you will notice that Gerard Depardieu (in the title role of Danton) has gained a significant amount of weight. Although a number of left-wing French historians have bashed the film, it does portray the crisis between moderates and extremists during the Reign of Terror.
    3. Oliver Twist: This 1948 version of the Charles Dickens classic is considered by many the best film adaptation. Star Wars fans will probably not recognize Alec Guiness as Fagan—there was quite a bit of make-up and prosthetics used to create this character.
    4. Ancestors in the Americas: Coolies, Sailors, and Settlers: This docu-memoir forces the viewer to see what life was like for early Asian immigrants to the Americas. This film is 66 minutes long.
    5. El Norte: This highly depressing 1984 movie is about two Guatemalan siblings fleeing their homeland for the promise of “the north”. As one might imagine, the north is anything but the promised land about which they have dreamed. This film is 2 hours and 21 minutes long.
    6. My Childhood: This 1938 movie was based upon the first part of Aleksei Maximovich Peshkov’s (1868-1936, better known as Maksim Gorky) autobiography first published in 1913. Again, this is not a particularly uplifting story, but it is representative of late 19th/early 20th century Russia. This film is 100 minutes long.
    7. Gallipoli: The first part of this film documents the lives of the would-be soldiers (one of whom is Mel Gibson) at home in Australia, and then it depicts the attack on Turkish lines by Australian/New Zealand forces (ANZAC). The movie makers actually consulted the diaries and letters of men involved in the campaign to help them create the dialogue for the film. This 1981 film is 111 minutes long.
    8. Avalon: This 1990 film is the third in Barry Levinson’s autobiographical “Baltimore Trilogy” (Tin Men and Diner were the others). It covers the life of several generations of a Jewish immigrant family in Baltimore. This film runs 2 hours 8 minutes.
    9. Unbearable Lightness of Being: This 1988 Philip Kaufman film is based on Milan Kundera’s novel (same title). The story is about a guy, Tomas, who wants to fornicate wildly without any emotional entanglements. Fortunately for him he as a steady source of companionship with a painter named Sabina, who shares a similar philosophy. Nevertheless, as you might guess Tomas does eventually fall in love. The backdrop of the film is Czechoslovakia in 1968, when the Soviets invaded and restored the hard-line wing of the Czech Communist party. One of the major complaints by reviewers is the “unbearable” length of the film—just shy of 3 hours.
    10. Battle of Algiers: This 1965 film depicts the Algerian struggle for independence from the French—note Algerian independence came in 1962. Although the film is completely scripted, it appears almost documentary in look and feel. The film was banned in France for quite some time, and some versions distributed in Britain and the US cut the French torture scenes. The film runs about 2 hours and 16 minutes (uncut, or 2 hours, cut).
    11. To Live: This 1994 film tells the story of a Chinese family from the 1940s up through the Cultural Revolution. The film was banned in China, and the director and lead actor suffered ill consequences as well. It runs 125 minutes.
    12. Cannibal Tours: This 1988 film was directed by Dennis O’Rourke, an Australian (he rejects national identification) whose work has centered upon Western domination of formerly colonized societies. Cannibal Tours follows the escapades of Italian, American, and German tourists visiting the Sepik River Valley in New Guinea. It runs 1 _ hours—make sure that you see the entire film—there are places where it appears to end.

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse, June 24, 2008, last updated: see header
back to top, Hist 2c homepage