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Historians are always saying “It's complicated” and nobody likes that when movie makers do it.

— David Blight, Yale University, History Film Forum 2015

Welcome to the History Film Forum

Christopher Wilson

Films are incredibly powerful. In his 1962 interview with French director François Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock said he considered film the most powerful medium in human history. It’s no wonder, then, that history films offer an extraordinary ability to cement memorable impressions of the past upon viewers, for good or ill. Filmmakers’ frequent predilection for exploring historical subjects and the public popularity of these films is the reason I, along with my colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Endowment for the Humanities, decided to launch the History Film Forum. The Forum will annually explore history on the screen and the state of film as public history, analyzing narrative film, documentaries, television shows, and this year, internet videos. After all, while the research, writing, and exhibitions of historians and curators shed new light on the past and engage many people every year, countless more connect with and learn about the past through movies.

Film transports us to another time and place. When that time and place actually existed in our past, we take away an altered understanding of history. Sometimes the powerful images and emotions at work in film offer new understanding of history, other times the power of the medium works to reinforce or create myths. Because film is so elemental to the way the public understands and experiences history, I am so pleased that we will continue to explore film as a tool for interpreting and learning history in our History Film Forum. The next History Film Forum will take place March 9–12, 2017, in Washington, D.C., featuring brand new documentary and narrative films, offering support for  emerging filmmakers, and exploring the theme of “the nation we build together.”

We hope you will join us.
​- Christopher WilsonExecutive Director and Forum Curator

Every program I attended was informative, educational, and entertaining. It was wonderful to be in a space where people truly understood the natural intersections between history, film, storytelling, and social change.

— Leah Michaels, Forum attendee

About the History Film Forum

History Film Forum Logo

The History Film Forum is the premier film festival focused on history in the United States. A four-day exploration of history on the screen, the Forum brings together experts and audiences to examine the state of both narrative and documentary history film as vehicles for teaching and interpreting history. A collaboration of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Forum is unique in its connection of audiences, historians, filmmakers, journalists, and policy leaders at our National Museum.

Interested in learning more? Contact us at historyfilmforum@si.edu

Production Team:

National Museum of American History

Christopher Wilson, Executive Director
Sky Sitney, Production Consultant
Daniel Holm, Forum Coordinator
Keith Madden, Production
Nigel Briggs, Graphic Design Director
Susan Evans, Programs and Audience Development
Katie Macko, Programs and Audience Development
Laura Duff, Communications and Marketing
Michael Johnson, External Affairs and Advancement
Abbey Hunter, Special Events
Ken Kimery, Smithsonian Jazz
Andrea Lowther, Visitor Services
Stacy Kluck, Curator
Kari Fantasia, External Affairs and Advancement
Dave McOwen, New Media
Megan Salocks, Audience Development
Erin Blasco, Social Media
Amanda Vercruysse, Audience Engagement
Kathy Sklar, Business Program Manger
Jaimmy Holmes, Catering
Wendy Coleman, Purchasing
Leslie Casaya, Purchasing
Grace Boone, Purchasing
Joycinna Graves, Purchasing
Lolita Thomas, Museum Management Services
Kevin Thomas, Museum Management Services
Caleigh Holmes, Intern
Caine Jordan, Intern
Brianna Mayer, Intern
Brice Smither, Intern
Suprea Williams, Intern
Grace Swinnerton, Intern
Alex Kamins, Intern
Alexandra Piper, Intern
Sian Davies, Intern
James Santos, Intern
Maria Marshall, Intern
Alyssa Waldner, Intern
Katherine Hardman, Intern
Hayley Arias-Wood, Intern
Madeline Smit, Design Intern
Kaitlyn Taylor, Design Intern

National Endowment for the Humanities

Karen Mittelman, Director, Division of Public Programs
Jeff Hardwick, Deputy Director, Division of Public Programs
Karen Kenton, Senior Program Officer
Theola DeBose, Director of Communications

Smithsonian Enterprises Digital Museum Services

Todd Stowell, Director, Digital Technology
Ann Conanan, Senior Producer
Lauren Johnson, Web Producer
Brian Wolly, Digital Editor, Smithsonian.com  and Museum Services​
Jason Orfanon, Executive Producer

Advisors

Laurens Grant, Filmmaker
Anne Harrington, WETA
Margaret Parsons, National Gallery of Art
Lauren Prestileo, WGBH
Thom Powers, PowersHausen
Sky Sitney, Georgetown University

This program is produced through an interagency agreement between the Smithsonian Institution and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History collects and preserves more than 3 million artifacts. The museum works to ensure that our collections, exhibitions, research, publications and educational programs all support the Museum’s basic mission—to inspire a broader understanding of our nation and its many peoples—and to make our exhibitions and programs as accessible as possible to all visitors.
 
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research, and dynamic public outreach, we explore the infinite richness and complexity of American history. We help people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. 

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

I think that what a filmmaker aspires to do is capture the truth of the era . . . The first thing that I think you do is not try to jam history into a paradigm . . . you stay open to the truth of it is as much as you can. You try to learn as much as you can about the history.

— Gary Ross, The Free State of Jones, History Film Forum 2015