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History Film Forum
2017 Forum

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.

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Theme: Discussion

Screening and Discussion – TOWER (2016), Keith Maitland
1:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

The History Film Forum opens with a discussion with South by Southwest Grand Jury award-winning director Keith Maitland on his use of archival material and animation in his groundbreaking film Tower. On August 1st, 1966, a sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes. When the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll included 16 dead, three dozen wounded, and a shaken nation left trying to understand. Combining archival footage with rotoscopic animation in a dynamic, never-before-seen way, Tower reveals the action-packed untold stories of the witnesses, heroes and survivors of America’s first mass school shooting, when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others.

Theme: Screening

Screening - Slavery by Another Name (2012) *, Sam Pollard
3:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

Slavery by Another Name recounts how in the years following the Civil War, insidious new forms of forced labor emerged in the American South, keeping hundreds of thousands of African Americans in bondage, trapping them in a brutal system that would persist until the onset of World War II. Based on Douglas Blackmon’s research, Slavery by Another Name spans eight decades, from 1865 to 1945, revealing the interlocking forces in both the South and the North that enabled this “neoslavery” to begin and persist. Using archival photographs and dramatic re-enactments filmed on location in Alabama and Georgia, it tells the forgotten stories of both victims and perpetrators of neoslavery and includes interviews with their descendants living today. Features a discussion with filmmaker Sam Pollard and writer Sheila Curran Bernard.

Theme: Discussion

Keynote – Douglas Blackmon and Sam Pollard
6:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

Join Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Blackmon and Emmy-Award winning producer Sam Pollard as they are interviewed by Jeff Bieber, Vice President of Content Development and Production from WETA television, about their careers and the challenges inherent in making history films. They will share excerpts from their new film The Harvest (2017)*, a look at the legacy of school integration in Blackmon’s native Leland, Mississippi. Come early to see a screening of Blackmon and Pollard’s previous film Slavery by Another Name (2012)*.

Theme: Screening

Screening and Discussion - TIMELESS: (Re)Creating American History
7:30 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

The History Film Forum takes an inside look at the NBC drama “Timeless.” Each week, “Timeless” takes viewers back in time through America’s rich history to reflect upon the lesser known details of monumental moments that have shaped our country. The adventures of the “Time Team,” which consists of a female historian, a Delta Force soldier and an African American scientist, provide a gateway for conversation around the impact of race, gender and politics throughout the centuries on America. Through the storytelling of the series, ”Timeless” has ignited in its fans a curiosity and passion for history, making it feel exciting, current and relevant, while providing families with a show they can watch, discuss and enjoy together. Join us for a screening of the episode “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln,” followed by a moderated panel discussion by MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts with executive producers and showrunners Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) & Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”), stars Abigail Spencer (“Rectify”), Matt Lanter (“Pitch Perfect 3”) & Malcolm Barrett (“The Hurt Locker”) and Georgetown University scholar Brian Taylor.

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Theme: Screening

Screening and Discussion – The Real Mad Men of Advertising, Smithsonian Channel
11:30 a.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

"Mad Men" gave audiences an all-access glimpse into the world of advertising in America during the tumultuous decade of the 1960s. It was inspired by the real men and women of Madison Avenue who perfected the art of the sale and transformed American culture in the process. Who were these people and what were the campaigns that created this consumer culture? Follow the evolution of advertising from the 1950s through the 1980s, via interviews with the industry's top ad executives, and through classic ads and commercials.

Theme: Discussion

Panel - Responsibilities of History Filmmakers
1:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

In his keynote address at the inaugural History Film Forum in 2015, filmmaker Ric Burns said “When you traffic in film and history, fiction or nonfiction, you are borrowing the authority and power and majesty of the real and counting on its potency to lift your tale. You, therefore, have a contract with the audience whether you know it or not: you’re going to take them as close to a truth as you can, no matter what the limitations are that get in your way.” This session looks at the responsibilities of filmmakers as public historians.

Theme: Screening

Screening and Discussion - The Loving Story (2011) *, Nancy Buirski
3:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

Oscar-shortlist selection The Loving Story, the debut feature by Full Frame Documentary Film Festival founder Nancy Buirski, is the definitive account of Loving v. Virginia—the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage. Married in Washington, D.C. on June 2, 1958, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter returned home to Virginia where their marriage was declared illegal—he was white, and she was black and Native American. At the time, anti-miscegenation laws were upheld in 16 states. The Lovings refused to leave one another and, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, took their case to the courts.

Theme: Screening

Screening and Discussion - The Great War, Stephen Ives, Amanda Pollak, and Rob Rapley (American Experience, 2017)
7:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

Join us for an exclusive sneak peak of never before seen footage from the new film from PBS’s American Experience series: The Great War. The Great War is a six-hour, three-night event that will premiere in April 2017 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into the war on April 6, 1917. Drawing on the latest scholarship, including unpublished diaries, memoirs and letters, The Great War tells the rich and complex story of World War I through the voices of nurses, journalists, aviators and the American troops who came to be known as “doughboys.” The series explores the experiences of African-American and Latino soldiers, suffragists, Native-American “code talkers” and others whose participation in the war to “make the world safe for democracy” has been largely forgotten. The film is executive produced by Mark Samels and directed by award-winning filmmakers Stephen Ives, Amanda Pollak and Rob Rapley.

Theme: Screening

Screening and Discussion - The Great War, Stephen Ives, Amanda Pollak, and Rob Rapley (American Experience, 2017)
7:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

Join us for an exclusive sneak peak of never before seen footage from the new film from PBS’s American Experience series: The Great War.

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Theme: Workshop

Emerging Filmmakers Lab – Curated by Sky Sitney, Georgetown University
9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. -

Open to selected applicants only

The Emerging Filmmakers Lab will open an unprecedented space for up-and-coming filmmakers working in the historical mode to connect directly with historians, as well as other experts in the field such as funders, programmers, commissioning editors and veteran filmmakers, to explore issues related to the telling of history on screen, to advance their work, and to seed new forms of inspiration and collaboration.

Theme: Discussion

Panel - Women in History Filmmaking
11:00 a.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

Across the top-grossing 1,100 films that debuted between 2002 and 2012, only 4.4% were created by female directors. As a study by Dr. Stacy Smith of the USC Annenberg school discovered, of 129 top grossing G, PG, and PG-13 films theatrically released between 2006 and 2011 less than 30% of all on screen speaking characters are girls or women. The ratio of males to females on the silver screen is 2.53 to 1. These statistics highlight a major problem in the world of filmmaking: the limited ability of women and women’s stories to be seen or told. This panel will bring together female experts in the industry to discuss the unique challenges faced by female filmmakers, and the impact this has on historical filmmaking.

Theme: Discussion

Panel - Inside Crash Course
1:30 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

From balancing chemical reactions to analyzing famous literature, never before has one video collection offered such a range of content. Since 2011, brothers John and Hank Green have pioneered digital education with their series Crash Course, which has more than 5 million subscribers on YouTube. From science to literature to American and world history, Crash Course offers it all in quick-paced, imaginative videos aimed at learners of all ages. This panel of Crash Course producers provides a look behind the scenes of using this innovative YouTube series to teach history.

Theme: Screening

Screening - An Outrage (2017), Hannah Ayers, Lance Warren
4:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

The History Film Forum is proud to present the premiere of 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.

Theme: Screening

Screening – Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive (2016)*, Eric Stange
7:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

The Forum presents an exclusive advanced screening of Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive, which will have its exclusive U.S. broadcast premiere on the “American Masters” series in fall 2017 on PBS. Edgar Allan Poe is among the most famous and widely read of all American authors. His name and image are iconic. He has been a constant source of inspiration for countless artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers. And yet despite Poe's enormous influence on the culture of the United States, what most people know about Poe is wrong. Taking advantage of the wealth of new scholarship, Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive will reveal the man behind the myth through an examination of his life, his work and the world in which he lived — decades of extraordinary change in America. Only in that way can the mystery that is Edgar Allan Poe be solved. Features a discussion with the film’s director Eric K. Stange and Dr. J. Gerald Kennedy, Boyd Professor of English at Louisiana State University.

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Theme: Discussion

Innovative Formats in History Media
11:00 a.m. - Hall of Music

The Forum explores three interactive documentary projects for the: Between the Waters, South Carolina ETV’s immersive transmedia website showcasing lowcountry culture and history, Walden, a game, a first person simulation of the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his experiment in self-reliant living, produced by USC Game Innovation Lab, and Immigrant Stories, produced by University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center, which helps recent immigrants and refugees create digital stories. These digital portals offer opportunities to share, explore, and discover, empowering the audiences and creating communities. All three projects were supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.​

Theme: Screening

Screening and Discussion - The Chinese Exclusion Act (2017) *, Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu
1:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

On May 6th, 1882 – on the eve of the greatest wave of immigration in American history – President Chester A. Arthur signed into law a unique piece of federal legislation, called the Chinese Exclusion Act. Unlike any other law in American history before or since – except for subsequent measures extending it for well more than half a century – the act uniquely singled out by name a single race and nationality for special treatment: making it illegal for Chinese laborers to enter America on pain of imprisonment; for Chinese nationals to become citizens of the United States; and for Chinese immigrants already here to leave the country and re-enter it.

Panel - Hollywood Shuffle? Black History on Film
4:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater

Two years after #OscarsSoWhite began trending, the History Film Forum and The Undefeated examine the state of Black history on the screen. The African American Film Critics Association called 2016 the best year ever for black people in cinema, with films like Loving, Hidden Figures, and The Free State of Jones, along with powerful documentaries like OJ: Made in America, I am not your Negro, and 13th. We saw projects featuring African Americans in front of and behind the camera and black stories at the forefront. Despite the long standing dearth of diverse stories of the past making it to movie audiences, does this year indicate a lasting shift where we might consistently see new stories of the past on the screen?

Performance and Discussion – Jazz Ambassadors *, Hugo Berkeley
6:00 p.m. - The Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza

What better way to close the History Film Forum than with jazz and history! In the late ’50s, U.S. government officials eager to make a case for America’s superiority to Communist regimes found a new vehicle to deliver the message to a global audience. They staged a series of global tours of top jazz musicians to showcase the popular and inclusive art form, promoting the democratic values enshrined in the music while also offsetting the backlash brewing among African Americans fed up with discrimination. The 90-minute Jazz Ambassadors*, directed by award winning filmmaker Hugo Berkeley, will showcase the overseas adventures of jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington and draw on archival footage of the performances and visits, as well as interviews with surviving musicians who toured. This program includes clips from the upcoming film, a look into the creative process, discussion with jazz scholars, archival footage and performances by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.

* Funded, in part, by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities