The People Speak
The world according to Zinn
The People Speak, which was released recently on DVD, is a live-stage performance of prose and song on which Howard Zinn based his hugely popular 1980 book A People’s History of the United States. The Cliff Notes version of the book and the performances is that rich white men are evil tyrants who are only fair and compassionate when forced to do so.
I understand the intense enthusiasm of Matt Damon, who read the Declaration of Independence, and the plethora of other celebrities who participated in this project. A special feature in which Damon’s pals discussed discovering Zinn’s book reminded me of reading Ayn Rand’s novels in high school; integrity and a merit-based system rule!
The good news is that Zinn, who narrates the performance, expands our knowledge of American history by sharing a great deal of information that many mainstream history books overlook. I had never heard that foot soldiers in the American Revolution were promised land for fighting but never received it, that Abraham Lincoln had once supported keeping slavery legal, or that Susan B. Anthony had been convicted of voting in the 1872 presidential trial; the brief reenactment of her sentencing was very interesting and performed well.
The bad news is that Zinn followed the Michael Moore method of laying on the propaganda too thickly. An example was a segment on evicted families in the Bronx immediately moving their furniture back into their apartments and changing the locks to thwart future eviction attempts.
The segment in Speak elicited laughs in the same manner that Moore’s segment in his Riefenstahl worthy Capitalism on a modern family that was evicted breaking back into their homes prompted cheers. People who face losing their homes deserve sympathy, but landlords are not running charities. Rand rules!
The fact that Speak presents a highly slanted view does not detract from the fact that it is a good production of an excellent stage performance by a large talented cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Dylan, Jasmine Guy, Viggo Mortensen and numerous other skilled performers. It is simply important to have far more than a grain of salt on hand when you watch it.
Because we do have freedom of speech, which Zinn stated resulted from pressure by the common people, I invite folks to share their views regarding this production to e-mail me at email@example.com.
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Review by John Stahl
John Stahl is a freelance legal writer who is also a fan of classic and cult television programs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The People Speak
Like Howard Zinn's work as a whole, The People Speak celebrates the extraordinary possibilities for creating social change that ordinary people have realized throughout the course of our nation's rich but often ignored history of dissent and protest.
The People Speak is produced by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn, co-directed by Moore, Arnove and Zinn, and features dramatic and musical performances by Allison Moorer, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Robinson, Christina Kirk, Danny Glover, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, David Strathairn, Don Cheadle, Eddie Vedder, Harris Yulin, Jasmine Guy, John Legend, Josh Brolin, Kathleen Chalfant, Kerry Washington, Lupe Fiasco, Marisa Tomei, Mart'n Espada, Matt Damon, Michael Ealy, Mike O'Malley, Morgan Freeman, P!nk, Q'orianka Kilcher, Reg E. Cathey, Rich Robinson, Rosario Dawson, Sandra Oh, Sean Penn, Staceyann Chin, and Viggo Mortensen.
For a full list of credits for The People Speak, visit http://www.thepeoplespeak.com/credits
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