Several weeks ago, we talked a bit about the HBO mini-series, John Adams. I have enjoyed the series, especially the interaction between John and Abigail. (Though I am still trying to get Paul Giamatti‘s role in Sideways out of my head!)
But like others I have also been watching and making note of the historical accuracy of the film. Jeremy Stern at the Historical News Network has put together a comprehensive review of the earlier installments of the film.
. . . the new HBO miniseries on John Adams, first aired on March 16, skillfully depicts the difficulties and controversies leading to American independence, and often – though not always – does so accurately. If students watch it, they will very likely understand more about the period than they did before. The physical depiction of Revolutionary-era Massachusetts is impressive, and as a drama the series is well acted and well produced.
Stern goes on to point out several inaccuracies in the film. And while I still believe viewing pieces of John Adams in class is a good thing, Stern’s account highlights the tension we face as history teachers when using movies as part of our instruction – “students . . . will likely understand more about the period” but that understanding may come with the cost of less historical accuracy.
Resources exist to help you as you look for ways to engage kids in the richness of history. The Teaching History with Film site by grad students at George Washington can help. Teaching with Movies is another great resource. Awesome Stories has some sample movie resources and provides free memberships to educators.
- American History on the Screen: A Teachers Resource Book on Film and Video
- History Goes to the Movies: Studying History on Film
- Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies
- Celluloid Blackboard: Teaching History with Film
Are some films better than others? What movies have you found to be successful?