The future of history as film: Apropos the publication of a Companion to Historical Film

Ofer Ashkenazi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

In the past three decades, due to the work of some distinguished historians, the discussion of film is being slowly integrated into Western historiography. However, while relatively few academic historians would deny today film's ability to instigate awareness to and enrich the understanding of historical experiences, many fewer are willing-and able-to incorporate film analysis in their own research and teaching. This impasse is particularly apparent in the case of "historical films," in which past events and experiences are reconstructed, invented and framed in varying degrees of sophistication. The convincing arguments that established film as a "legitimate" narrator of historical reality often fell short of explicating how film should be integrated into academic history discourse. This article reads Rosenstone and Parvulescu's recent collection of essays A Companion to Historical Film as a demonstration of different approaches taken by contemporary historians in an attempt to meet this challenge. Within this context, it identifies four paradigms, each involves different premises about the nature of film's realism, its role as an agent of social change, and its dialog with "conventional" (national, institutional, etc.) narration of the past. The analysis of these paradigms-and the ways they have been implemented by the contributors to A Companion to Historical Film-shows their potential contribution to the study of historical realities, as well as their weaknesses and limitations. Insightfully presenting and discussing these approaches, I argue, Rosenstone and Parvulescu's volume is an important step forward in the ongoing endeavor to methodologically incorporate film analysis in the academic research of history.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)289-303
Number of pages15
JournalRethinking History
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2014

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