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Film Festival


OAH Film Festival

Over the past decade, the release of historical dramas like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and Ava Duvernay’s Selma have raised important questions about the strengths, limitations, and possibilities of film as a form of historical documentation. Can film as a visual medium convey ideas and information that lie beyond written forms of historical documentation? How do filmmakers draw from history to imagine new futures? How have recent technological shifts in the making and distribution of film transformed the ways artists, historians, and the public engage the past? And lastly, how might historians as teachers better incorporate the diverse forms of film (animation, narrative documentaries, historical dramas) into our pedagogical activities?

The OAH’s 2018 conference in Sacramento will explore these and other issues in a series of film screenings, panels, and lectures specifically designed to elicit sustained dialogue and exchange about film as a form of history. Combined with exploring a variety of topics, ranging from the environment to racialized violence to student activism, the selected films showcase multiple aesthetic forms. There are feature length documentaries, as well as animated short films.

Since new media along with new interdisciplinary opportunities have rendered film making more accessible, this conference also takes seriously historians’ growing role as creators and producers of art.

Schedule Films

Friday, April 13

10am--11:30 am

50 Years of Radical Image Making and Documenting the Past: A Conversation with Cornelius Moore of California Newsreel

11:30am-1:00pm The Reagan Show
1pm-2:30pm How People Got Fire
3pm-4:30 pm Hitchhiking to the Edge of Sanity

Saturday, April 14

8am-9:30am East LA Interchange Documentary Screening
10am-11:30am Adios Amor—The Search for Maria Moreno
1pm--2:30 pm Agents of Change
3pm-4:30 pm An Outrage: A Documentary Film about Lynching in the American South


50 Years of Radical Image Making and Documenting the Past: A Conversation with Cornelius Moore of California Newsreel

Since its founding in 1968, California Newsreel has been at the forefront in producing and distributing film and video for social change. Its long list of pioneering films include but are not limited to Marlon Riggs’ Ethnic Notions and Tongues Untied, Raoul Peck's Lumumba, Karen Thorsen’s James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, David Shulman’s Dirt and Deeds in Mississippi, and more recently, Abby Ginzberg’s and Frank Dawson’s Agents of Change. The co-director of Newsreel, Cornelius Moore, will discuss several of these pioneering films, his long tenure at the company, and the role of film in enriching and complicating our understanding of the past. 

• Cornelius Moore, California Newsreel

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How People Got Fire

Combining narrative storytelling and richly textured imagery in a 16-minute short animation, How People Got Fire tells the story of how the crow brought fire to their people. In the village of Carcross, in the Tagish First Nation, Grandma Kay relates the history. And 12-year-old Tish narrates the story of the present. Past and present alternate and come together in beautifully rendered visual sequences. The metaphor of fire conveys the ongoing struggle to keep alive a community’s cultural memory.

Release date: February 2010 (New York City)
Director: Daniel Janke
Screenplay: Daniel Janke
Music composed by: Daniel Janke
Cast: Louise Profeit-LeBlanc, Austin Smith, Amy Smarch, Mae Hume, Jonnie-Lyn Kushniruk
Producers: Svend-Erik Eriksen, Martin Rose

Panelist:• Daniel Janke, Northern Town Films

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Adios Amor—The Search for Maria Moreno

In Adios Amor, the discovery of forgotten photographs prompts a search for an unsung heroine, Maria Moreno, a migrant mother who sacrificed everything but her twelve kids in the struggle for farm worker justice. In the late 1950s at the height of the Cold War, Maria Moreno stepped out of the shadows and spoke up for 3 million farm workers living in poverty while they harvested the food for the most affluent nation in the world. Elected by a group of Okie, Arkie, Black, Filipino and Mexican farm workers to represent their demands for equal rights and fair pay, Maria took her crusade all the way to the halls of power in Washington D.C. Although she was silenced and relegated to the sidelines of farm worker history, Maria Moreno left an inspiring legacy of multi-ethnic unity that is deeply resonant today.
After screening Adios Amor, filmmaker Laurie Coyle and historian advisors Vicki Ruiz and Devra Weber will engage viewers in a conversation about how the film challenges conventional histories of the farm worker movement

• Laurie Coyle, Adios Amor Film Project
• Vicki Ruiz, University of California, Irvine
• Devra Anne Weber, University of California, Riverside

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The Reagan Show

A Republican president takes office at the height of his Hollywood-powered, camera-ready fame. He governs with lenses constantly flashing, and claims that he’s just the public face in front of real policy-makers and dangerous global threats. That’s the story of America’s 40th president, Ronald Reagan. The movie star, known for playing cowboys and gun-toting heroes, took over the White House in 1981 and led the United States against Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s threats of war. Amidst the actual governing, though, Reagan’s presidency set a new standard for video documentation. Cameras followed Reagan’s every move, leading opposing pundits to accuse him of “majoring in public relations” more so than hardline presidential affairs. Comprised entirely of archival footage taken during those pre-reality-television years, The Reagan Show is a highly entertaining and informative look at how Ronald Reagan redefined the look and feel of what it means to be the POTUS. Co-directors Pacho Velez and Sierra Pettengill’s film uncannily provides a fascinating precedent for the made-for-TV President.

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East LA Interchange Documentary Screening

The ten-time, award-winning documentary East LA Interchange follows the evolution of working-class, immigrant Boyle Heights from multicultural to predominantly Latino and a center of Mexican-American culture. Boyle Heights was once far more diverse than most U.S. cities; Latinos, Asians, African-Americans, and the largest settlement of Jews west of Chicago lived and worked together side by side. Targeted by government policies, real estate laws and California planners, the neighborhood survived the building of the largest and busiest freeway interchange system in North America. Will Boyle Heights, like many cities across the country, survive the next round of challenges from development and gentrification? 

East LA Interchange's story of a proudly multicultural community that celebrates diversity, tolerance and activism in the face of great sociopolitical challenges is an imperative message for today. Following the screening, there will be a panel with producer/director Betsy Kalin and the film's subjects and historical advisors, Dr. George J. Sanchez, Dr. John Kuo Wei Tchen, and Dr. Marisela R. Chávez.


Chair: Betsy Kalin, East LA Interchange
• Betsy Kalin, East LA Interchange
• George Sanchez, University of Southern California
• John Kuo Wei Tchen, NYU
• Marisela Chávez, California State University, Dominguez Hills

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Hitchhiking to the Edge of Sanity


“Hitchhiking to the Edge of Sanity” takes a look back to the turbulent social upheaval of the early 1970s and follows an idealistic writer and his soon-to-be-married photographer friend as they set out to find their purpose via a terrifying road trip across the Sahara Desert. Dissatisfied with Nixon and Vietnam War 1970, the two subjects of my film spent several months in Europe and Africa searching for and interacting with alternative political systems.

What started out as two young Kansas kids setting out to find themselves, turned to disillusionment and danger. Photographer Steve Ewert and writer Dick Russell trekked across Europe "Forrest Gump" fashion—meeting political figures, writers, photographers, and anarchists.

With Ewert taking numerous pictures with his Nikon F and Russell prodigiously writing on his trusty Smith Corona Skyriter, the pair crossed the Mediterranean and hitchhiked across the Sahara Desert, a 3000 mile trip that started in revolutionary hotspot Algeria and ended in sub-Saharan Ghana.

• Scott Petersen, Producer/Director "Hitchhiking to the Edge of Sanity"

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Agents of Change

From the well-publicized events at San Francisco State in 1968 to the image of black students with guns emerging from the takeover of the student union at Cornell University in April, 1969, the struggle for a more relevant and meaningful education, including demands for black and ethnic studies programs, became a clarion call across the country in the late 1960's. Through the stories of these young men and women who were at the forefront of these efforts, Agents of Change examines the untold story of the racial conditions on college campuses and in the country that led to these protests. The film’s characters were caught at the crossroads of the civil rights, black power, and anti-Vietnam war movements at a pivotal time in America’s history. Today, over 45 years later, many of the same demands are surfacing in campus protests across the country, revealing how much work remains to be done.

Agents of Change links the past to the present and the present to the past--making it not just a movie but a movement.

• Abby Ginzberg, Social Action Media
• Frank Dawson, Santa Monica College

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An Outrage: A Documentary Film about Lynching in the American South

Filmed on-location at lynching sites in six states and bolstered by the memories and perspectives of descendants, community activists, and scholars, this unusual historical documentary seeks to educate even as it serves as a hub for action to remember and reflect upon a long-hidden past.
An Outrage premiered at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in March 2017 as part of the History Film Forum, an event co-sponsored by the Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Humanities to celebrate new directions in history cinema. That same month, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced its acquisition of the film's exclusive K-12 distribution rights.  In the fall of 2017, SPLC began distributing the film and a complimentary curriculum to the 500,000 educators in its Teaching Tolerance network.  An Outrage has received awards at two film festivals, and is now available for free streaming by students and faculty at more than 2,500 colleges, universities, and public libraries via the platform Kanopy.

• Lance Warren, Field Studio
• Hannah Ayers, Field Studio
•  Yohuru Williams, St. Thomas University


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