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Rebels & Redcoats: How Britain Lost America
Rebels Redcoats How Britain Lost America
Genres: Television, Educational, Documentary
NR     2004     4hr 0min

Studio: Paramount Home Video Release Date: 09/23/2005


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Movie Details

Genres: Television, Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Educational, Military & War
Studio: Pbs Paramount
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 06/29/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 4hr 0min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A failure on multiple levels
Christian Thoma | High Point, NC United States | 11/23/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)

"I rented this from my local library because I thought it would provide a British perspective on the American Revolution. Apparently the British perspective includes historical falsehoods and absence of key information, but that's not all that's wrong.

First, let's start with the technical issues. This is a documentary, and maybe I've grown accustomed to the Ken Burns style, but I have a hard time taking seriously a documentary that just has one commentator (albeit one with a British accent). Are the views in this documentary just his? Did they not want dissenting or collaborating views? Is he a mouthpiece? Why not have other historians involved?

Second, if they were going to talk Britain ... how about talking Britain? Parliamentary debates. Burke. Chatham. North. George III. What's happening in London? What's happening in New York City? You won't find out here, I'll tell you that much.

Third, there are some serious historical issues herein. The Royal Governor of Virginia issues a proclamation freeing slaves that join him to fight (oh the irony! those preaching liberty are upset he does this! -- more on this below) ... yet fails to mention he shortly thereafter sold them back into slavery.

Then, there's the issue with the American style of fighting, especially in the Carolinas. Yes, the Americans are better at sniper fire and fringe attacks. But the British developed their own light infantry after they encountered a similar situation in the French & Indian War -- this wasn't new to them. If you go by the documentary, you'd think the British were incapable of responding to military innovation. What's worse is that the three battles that immediately follow this discussion: King's Mountain, Cowpens, and Guilford Courthouse, contradict what he just said! King's Mountain was largely a battle between two militia groups, and thus both were capable of fighting under cover. In Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse, the Americans used traditional lines to fight the British regulars. So what was the point of the previous digression?

In the same sequence, you have a complete falsehood: if you believe the narrator, the British fought Greene in Guilford Courthouse after a forced march through Carolina with a minimum of food and equipment. Well, yes and no: Cornwallis chased Greene through North Carolina, but after Greene got across the Dan River, Cornwallis retired to Hillsborough to resupply! Obviously the writers of this documentary thought it'd sound better if the battle happened while the British troops were dead on their feet ... who needs historical accuracy when a tailor-made excuse for a substandard showing can be made?

Another fun sequence is when Tarleton's massacre at the Waxhaws is glossed over (who cares about the hundred of accounts of the massacre -- including Tarleton's -- the documentarians find room for doubt anyway), and then discuss the Loyalist militia massacre in North Carolina. Now, is it possible this massacre was an unnecessary retaliation? Yes. Did General Henry Lee order the massacre? Hmmm ... well, historically there's no proof either way. Lee in his memoirs says that he tries to get the militia to surrender and that his men (South Carolina men, related to victims at the Waxhaws) fired on them. You won't find that information in this documentary, though, because they want to make Lee look worse than Tarleton. Granted, Lee could've been trying to make himself look better ... but that doesn't explain why he would've put himself in the line of fire when the massacre happened. Regardless, good history allows for possibilities; it doesn't force its own decision on its readers/viewers.

Now, to the crux of the issue: it's obvious what the intended goal of this documentary was: to point out the hypocrisies and ironies of the American Revolution. And this is not a bad subject to tackle; the issue is that this material is out there already. The founding fathers debated the slavery issue during the war; there were atrocities committed against Loyalists; and Abigail Adams even wrote her husband John a nice letter about the rights of women. There's a good opportunity for these issues to be addressed intelligently and with proper respect for history. But not here. This is just blind agendizing with no real historical merit ... except for maybe documentary historians who are interested in the 'defeats' of their genre."
A bizarre Mix
HardyBoy64 | Rexburg, ID United States | 02/23/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)

"The historical presentation in this documentary is quite good. What is strange is the mixing of 18th century history with modern day images.
For example, after explaining about Dorchester Heights and its role in the seige of Boston, they show a kid throwing a tennis ball against the monument on D. Heights. WHAT? Everything is presented from the British point of view, which is OK, but I have a few issues with that. They insist on calling it a "Civil War" which I'm not completely convinced the term is appropriate. Also, there are many innane references to the Vietnam War. The interviewing of people on the bus about the history is funny and seems SO out of place for the seriousness of the film.
After watching 3 of the 4 episodes, I won't be finishing it. I've seen enough.
In so many ways, this documentary just misses the mark."
Excellent documentary, though not for the biased viewer!
L Gontzes | Athens, Greece | 07/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Rebels and Redcoats: How Britain Lost America provides the British perspective vis-à-vis the American Revolution. Professor Richard Holmes does an excellent job of shedding light on little known aspects of the American War of Independence thus providing a more pragmatic, realistic, and in effect a more truthful account of events during the 1775-1783 conflict than what has been generally shown to-date. The documentary is divided into four parts dealing with as many aspects of and visiting as many geographic regions of the conflict as possible. Subsequently, the documentary provides valuable insight into a very important period of English (American and British) History.
Specifically: We get a taste of the different attitudes and mentality of English North American colonists during the war along with their wavering support for one side and the other (the Loyalist American English and the Continental American English respectively).
Moreover, the documentary presents the clash within the British side (i.e. the personality clashes-Clinton vs. Cornwallis, the admirals, etc.).
In addition, one truly recognizes and appreciates the involvement of French King Louis XVI (beginning in 1778) and the French contribution (who along with the Spaniards in 1779 and Dutch in 1780 entered the war in opposition to Great Britain, and tipped the scales against King George III.
Furthermore, there is special mention of the 100,000 American Loyalists that were forced into exile as well the Continentals' treatment (or mistreatment) of slaves and Indians alike.
As a result, Rebels and Redcoats: How Britain Lost America is a daring documentary, which shatters more than a few misconceptions, deliberate and not, surrounding attitudes towards the American War of Independence, and provides for accurate, valid and often unpleasant or painful historical truths.
In short, Rebels and Redcoats: How Britain Lost America is a documentary definitely worth watching, and one to seriously consider adding to your movie collection, along with films such as Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor (Aidan Quinn and Kelsey Grammer), The Crossing (Jeff Daniels), and Revolution (Al Pacino). 5 Stars