Thursday, January 28, 2010

Negromancer Movie Review: "Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 180 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train (2004)
Running time: 78 minutes
PRODUCERS/DIRECTORS: Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller
EDITOR: Deb Ellis


Starring: Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Marian Wright Edelman, Daniel Ellsberg, Tom Hayden, Alice Walker, and Matt Damon (narrator)

Author, historian, and activist Howard Zinn is probably best known for his landmark 1980 book, A People’s History of the United States. However, he has been anti-war, civil rights, and labor activist for decades, and he has been on the forefront of progressive thought in America for as long. Through archival film footage and photos and with commentary from Zinn himself, the documentary film, Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, chronicles this influential thinker’s life as an activist committed to social change. The film also includes interviews with Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Tom Hayden, Marian Wright Edelman, and Alice Walker (Edelman and Walker were students of Zinn’s when he taught at Spellman College in Atlanta in the early 1960’s.).

Howard Zinn has taken the position that the American Revolution has served the interests of an elite ruling class and that the resulting U.S. government is as tyrannical (perhaps at least as tyrannical as the British government it replaced). Over time, our governing class and our laws have largely protected the wealth and property of a rich, right wing elite and large corporations. As a historian, Zinn has examined our past from the point of view of the poor and the disenfranchised, and his books on history reflect that. Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train gives us a nice overview of Zinn’s life, work, and beliefs.

However, the life and work of such an activist and intellectual requires a much longer film and certainly a more impassioned one. This is kind of like a class lecture on Zinn, narrated by actor Matt Damon doing his best solemn monotone. Still, this documentary is required viewing for people who want to learn about someone who has revealed the dark side of our democracy.

6 of 10

Thursday, August 17, 2006



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