cine16 Roadshow

22 - 23 / and 29 - 30 / 10 / 99
Presentation / Screening

cine16 Roadshow / Film program
from Geoff Alexander

22 / 10 / 1999
'Choice of films'

23 / 10 / 1999
'Humanities and the Educational Film'

29 / 10 / 1999
'Astounding Films of Science'

30 / 10 / 1999
'Animation in the Educational Film'


Between 1900 and 1990, approximately 103,000 educational films were distributed in the United States. A great number of these were based on historical subjects. Tonight, we'll investigate different approaches, themes, and genres of the historical film.

cine16 roadshow

22 / 10 / 1999 aaa

Choice of films
An effective educational film must contain two elements, superior cognitive content (information that includes facts, as well as the reasoning behind the facts), and affective value (in which the learner adopts new attitudes and motivation in relation to the content). Thus, the viewer learns something, and at the same time is motivated to continue his or her studies by individual learning, whether by choosing to read more on the subject, visiting a museum, or traveling to a destination relating to the subject material. An important characteristic of affective presence is entertainment value; each film on tonight's program is a rich example of how content and cinematic quality work together to produce an outstanding example of the educational film experience.

Mesa Verde: Mystery of the Silent Cities
Prod.: Bert Van Bork
14 min (1975)
Few could argue that this film sets the standard for historical films based on the Anasazi (an ancient Indian culture of the southwest U.S.) Flying within impossibly narrow canyons to achieve dizzying shots of cliff-dwellings, Van Bork burned through two pilots, one of whom quit in the middle of the shooting out of fear for his life. Van Bork's masterful shots were accomplished by removing the helicopter door, mounting the camera on a fixed mount, then directing the pilot through headphone microphone to fly in various trajectories. As if the breathtaking displays of the terrain and dwellings aren't enough, Van Bork also begins some pan shots with abstract architectural designs abruptly jutting out from behind incomplete shadowy formations, resembling more a German expressionist painting than an ancient, deserted town built into the rock. The filmmaker tells an interesting story about the narrator of the film, Jack Palance. Contacting the actor by telephone, Palance agreed to do the narration provided the script was acceptable, and, after reviewing it, suggested they meet at one of Hollywood's finest restaurants to discuss the project: Bob's Big Boy (the MacDonald's of its day). With Palance's dramatic interpretation of the text accompanied by the haunting percussion ensemble musical score by Hans Wurman, the film transcends the didactic historical and dry anthropological, and transfixes the viewer instead by offering an in-motion armchair view of the extreme location these long-forgotten people chose as home.
The Face of Lincoln
Dir.: Edward Freed
20 min (1954)

Play > Film
Abraham Lincoln is considered by many Americans to be its greatest historical figure, and every visitor to the U.S. who carries a penny or ten dollar bill carries a picture of Lincoln with them wherever they go. Lincoln, who was born in a frontier log cabin and was assassinated in Ford's Theatre, was President of the United States during the Civil War in the mid-1800s, and signed the Emancipation Proclamation which outlawed the ownership of slaves. The decade of the 1950s was a dismal one for historical films, but one of the few gems was this exceptional film, which features sculptor/professor Merrill Gage creating a clay bust of Lincoln, evolving the sculpture to age with the events of the life of the president, which he narrates. This film is an example of the "host-scholar" being the focal point of the film, generally unsuccessful if the host is boring or speaks in monotone. Gage, who had performed this lecture many times to students at the University of Southern California, is funny and engaging, as he slaps the ears on the head with abandon, changes hair styles with a flourish, and merrily adjusts the tie. The filming took place over three weeks, in which the crew was continually challenged by the hardening of the clay.
Centinelas del Silencio
Dir.:. Robert Amran
18 min (1971)

Play > Film
The real star here is the late aerial photographer James Freeman, whose breathtaking helicopter shots of Mayan and Aztec ruins at sunrise and sunset won an Academy Award for this film in 1971. Although the English version was narrated by Orson Welles, the Spanish version we'll show tonight features narration by Ricardo Montalban, is in better keeping with the ethnic aspect of the film, and no knowledge of Spanish is needed to appreciate his dramatic impact. Don't be put off by the heroic musical score: this film is memorable, the last word on spectacular ruin cinematography.
Taxes: the Outcome of Income
Dir.: Veronika Soul
10 min (1975)
Is it possible to make an interesting, funny, yet informative film about the history of a tax bureau, and the minutiae surrounding the manner in which it collects taxes? Soul's visually stimulating short about Revenue Canada makes the case that any subject can be entertaining in the hands of a motivated and creative filmmaker.
Middle Ages: A Wanderer's Guide to Life & Letters
Dir.: Piers Jessup
30 min (1973)
One method of presenting a historical period is to allow the information to be presented by a fictional, contemporary host. The quality of such films often rested on the shoulders of the host-actor, and perhaps the best of all was Nicholas Pennell's 'Robert', a fun-loving, arty, bawdy, and roguish guide to the culture, politics, and mores of the year 1350. Athletic and erudite, Pennell stole kisses, ran from pursuers, and leapt obstacles as he engaged the viewer by proving that old times may not have been all that different from newer ones, as the human condition allows us to reward individuality while conversely at the same time striving to crush it. Pennell, who for the following twenty years would be one of the Stratford Theatre of Canada's leading actors, was born in Devon, England in 1939, and died in 1995 in Ontario, writing a witty, touching, and wistful farewell letter (http://www.canadiantheatre.com/p/pennellletter.html) from his deathbed to his fellow Stratford actors, giving anyone having seen Wanderer's Guide the impression that the character of Robert was, indeed, Pennell playing himself. He died two days after the letter was read to the company. One of the truly great educational films ever made, Wanderer's Guide also features a magnificent reading of Chaucer's “Wife of Bath” by Jessie Evans.
Dir.:. Ken Rudolph
7 min. (1971)
Throw out your art history books: here's the entire history of art in one painless lesson.