- Film & History News: At the 1978 AHA Meeting
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 9, Number 1, February 1979
- pp. 20-21
- View Citation
- Additional Information
FILM & HISTORY NEWS AT THE 1978 AHA MEETING Storm of Fire: World War II and the Destruction of Dresden (1978) (B&W, 25 min., Churchill Films) Richard Raack, the filmmaker, opened this demonstration session with some statements about the responsibility of historians to make films for the classroom. After a screening of Storm of Fire, Peter C. Rollins first commented on the goals of Cadre Films and then interpreted two scenes from Storm of Fire, using stop-action equipment. Storm of Fire attempts to show the dynamics of total war. Hitler may have begun the conflagration which swept across Europe during WW II, but the Dresden disaster demonstrates that the instinct for revenge can cast a dark shadow over even the most righteous cause. There was simply no good reason to destroy the thousands of people and the cultural treasures of the Saxon capital. While the film is sensitive to contextual historical events, Raack is to be commended for continually pointing Storm of Fi re ' s thematic content toward issues of importance in the era of SALT. We need to remember that total war is possible without the employment of nuclear weapons. This sophisticated film will repay many viewings. Like previous Cadre productions, Storm of Fire subtly employs symbolism, film irony, and interpretive music in such an interesting way that the film can be used to train students in details of visual language. (Readers of Film and History probably do not need to be reminded that training active viewers has always been an objective of Cadre Films.) Teachers will be especially interested in the uncut newsreel introduced late in the film. Entitled Dresden Blasted, the newsreel attempts to provide a rationale for the Allied atrocity. Unfortunately, the strident narrator's arguments sound hollow: like so many "newsreels," this short film was assembled to sell an official position rather than to report actual events. The AHA session dealing with -Storm of Fire was so crowded that many were turned away. As a makeshift adjustment, a second session was conducted to accommodate those who could not squeeze in for the first round of screening and discussion. Dialogue between panelists and audience was brisk; in fact, historians at the Storm of Fire session demonstrated more interest in film than this reporter has seen in six years of such demonstration sessions at the AHA. While the questions and additions from the floor were always polite, there seemed to be an electric charge in the air. 20 Does this mean that the historian-as-filmmaker movement is gaining momentum ? (Copies of a twelve-page paper related to the session are available from Peter C. Rollins, Department of English, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, 74074.) FILM AND HISTORY AT THE AHA by Peter C. Rollins, Oklahoma State Univ. The Historians Film Committee's annual meeting and workshop was conducted in the Diabolo Room of the San Francisco Hilton, 5:00-7:00 p.m., December 28, 1978. The main order of business was the presentation and discussion of an historian-made compilation film, Harry Truman: The Man and the Myth (1977). (Purchase and rental information·: History Media Center, Univ. of Delaware, Newark, DE 19771.) Professor Steven Schoenherr (San Diego Univ.) introduced the film and provided context for its production. Harry Truman was a senior honors thesis by David J. DeWitt, a project completed with a budget under $1,000. As a student at the University of Delaware's Instructional Resources Center and History Media Center, Mr. DeWitt had been trained in the location, evaluation, and "reading" of visual documents. The goal of Harry Truman was to investigate the relationship between Truman the man and Truman the public image; hence the sub-title, "the Man and the Myth." Narration was based upon original research at the Truman Library and current scholarship. Clever commentative music was supplied by friends of the filmmaker. The film stimulated vigorous discussion. A filmmaker in the audience related his own experiences at President-watching: he had found it difficult to avoid being manipulated by press secretaries and could sympathize with the plight of cameramen who could only present pictures which were slanted in favor of the Chief Executive. Professor Schoenherr indicated that he was at work...