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FILM REVIEWS Film reviews are intended toprovide historians and teachers with critical evaluations offilms both in current distribution and those suitablefor classroom use. Reviews ofcurrentfeatures will be assigned to specialists in the givenfield, while all members are invited to contribute shorter critiques offilms they have used in the classroom. Each issue ofFilm & History will carry reviews of both kinds and we welcome your comments. Unless otherwise noted, allfilmsfor the classroom are 16mm. THE EMIGRANTS bv Michael Ebner (Svensk Filmindustri, distributed by Warner Bros.) U.S. Premier September 24, 1972. Last year, in a historiographical article evaluating the scholarship produced by historians of American ethnicity, Robert P. Swierenga observed that, "They continue to write in a mildly filiopietistic view and debate the old moral and emotional issues of whether assimilation is good or bad, or whether America has in fact been a melting pot." In arriving at this conclusion, he concurred with Timothy L. Smith, who had written five years earlier that, "The once promising field ofimmigration studies has fallen upon hard times." He had cited "the blight ofethnic parochialism" as an important factor in this process ofretardation, although other causes also were identified, including the language barrier, scattered and disorganized sources, and a low level oftheoretical conceptualization. Three years after the appearance of Smith's perspective another respected contributor to the field, Rudolph J. Vecoli, presented a paper entitled "Ethnicity: A Neglected Dimension of American History " at an annual meeting ofthe Organization ofAmerican Historians devoted largely to surveying "The State of American History." Although he too agreed with Smith's appraisal, Vecoli indicated that "the long winter ofneglect ofethnicity" was reaching its termination, in part resulting from social science's renewed attention to questions involving cultural pluralism; a corollary ofthis was the increased interest ofcommercial publishers in ethnic and minority studies. Indeed, several reprint houses, most notably Arno Press, Jerome Ozer, and Patterson Smith, have issued elaborate and often invaluable collections ofmonographic literature and documentary compilations published prior to the First World War that remain essential for those engaged in research and instruction. Likewise, in a study by an English scholar, Philip Taylor's The Distant Magnet. European Emigration to the U.S.A.. (Harper Torchbook, 197 1), a well-written carefully conceived synthesis, utilizing European as well as American sources, ethnic historians find themselves in possession ofa general survey. The entry of the motion picture industry into the cresting ethnic market was all but predictable. Just a few years ago, responding to the radicalism that dominated student life on college campuses, Hollywood resurrected a legendary artifact ofradical folklore for the feature movie Joe Hill. Beyond a doubt the arrival of the nation's bicentennial commemoration in 1976 will create a lucrative cinematic market for historically-conscious (or is it "trend-conscious") producers to capitalize upon in terms ofthe cult of American 'patriotism." The musical 1776, already transformed from Broadway to the screen is but a prelude of what is ahead. 91 The Emigrants, directed by Jan Troell, a Swede, can effectively serve as a standard for future historically minded motion pictures. (I cannot suppress the thought at this juncture, in fact, that non Americans, such as Englishmen like Philip Taylor as well as Maldwyn Allen Jones and Henry Pelling, have been making increasingly noteworthy contributions towards achieving a much needed synthesis of the social history of the United States in the nineteenth century.) Measured by the substantive accomplishments ofAmerican historians ofimmigration and ethnicity that have slowly unfolded since the initial publication in 1941 ofOscar Handlin's pathbreakingBoston's Immigrants, the film scores high marks. Certainly a good deal ofcredit must be accorded to Carl Artur Vilhelm Moberg, the Swedish writer from whose novels the screenplay was adopted by Troell and Gengt Forslund. Moberg worked as a forester and farm hand prior to his literary career, which includes scores ofbooks and plays, and his writing on Swedish peasantry is partially autobiographical. Also, much ofhis writing in Utvandrarna (The Emigrants) and Invandrarna (The Immigrants) utilizes the letters and diaries of nineteenth century Swedish settlers in the United States. In fact, Moberg's A History of the Swedish People: From Odin to Englebrecht appeared in the United States. The film commences with...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9922
Print ISSN
0360-3695
Pages
pp. 91-93
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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