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Screening the Past: Exploring History through Film

Digital History TOPIC ID 41

Movies are much more than mere entertainment. Feature films are valuable sociological, psychological, and cultural documents which tell us a great deal about the mood and atmosphere of a particular era.

Movies are also educators. For a century, Hollywood has reflected and shaped public ideas about beauty, glamour, femininity, masculinity, and America 's role in the world. The movies have been instrumental in defining and disseminating ethnic and racial stereotypes, and shaping our images of the past.

Movies are particularly important in constructing the public myths that define our identity as a people.

In our highly visual culture, a growing amount of what we learn about history comes from the movies. Popular films both represent and misrepresent the historical past. In constructing historical movies, filmmakers manipulate situations, personalities, and timelines and condense highly complex sequences of events in constructing historical films.

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