HISTORY IS MADE Panel at Sundance 2007

BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, PARK CITY, USA — On Sunday, we planned our schedule around two important panel discussions. HISTORY IS MADE was a panel about how films that deal with historical periods become the current generation’s reality for that history. Producers, directors and/or writers of films that addressed issues based on historical events were on the panel. Three documentaries were represented and one feature film. Bill Guttentag (NANKING), Julie Gavras (BLAME IT ON FIDEL), Steven Okazaki (WHITE LIGHT/BLACK RAIN) and Marco Williams (BANISHED) brought films that dealt with the rape of Nanking (1937), the Vietnam War (1970’s), the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945) and the forced migration of black citizens from southern states following the civil war (1965 – 1930’s).




Ian Buruma was the moderator for the panel discussion. There were about 50 filmmakers attending the discussion. The intimate setting of the Filmmaker Lodge created a comfortable atmosphere for discussion. Buruma introduced the panel and small clips of most of the films. This gave us a sense of the story the filmmakers were trying to convey. Each spoke about their movie and its history. They shared why they chose their specific project. They revealed who they worked with and what message they were trying to convey.

The discussion included the importance of documentation. They discussed how it is easier for countries to research, remember and document the history of OTHER countries while forgetting or burying the history of their own. It was suggested that one of the purposes of documentaries was to influence our lives today with the wisdom of the past. The panelists suggested that we view historical stories with a contemporary resonance. The question of “collective victimhood” and reparations was broached but, of course, no resolution would be forthcoming since we do not yet as a society have answers for these sorts of tragedies. Regardless, I appreciated the conversation.

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