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Simon Schama's The American Future: A History
Simon Schama's The American Future A History
Actor: Simon Schama
Genres: Television, Documentary
NR     2009     4hr 0min

To coincide with the US elections of 2008 comes this refreshing antidote to the whir of sensationalist spin and scandal, measuring up to the seriousness of the moment without diluting the excitement of campaign politics. A...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Simon Schama
Genres: Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary
Studio: BBC Warner
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 01/20/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2009
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 4hr 0min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A brilliant and emotional look at the American past, its tro
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 01/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Simon Schama has repeatedly proven himself a profound student of history, offering clear-eyed looks at the past in his books and on television programs such as this one. Citizens, his history of the French Revolution, is one of the finest ever written on the subject. His books on Rembrandt and the 17th Century Dutch golden age wear their analytical depth lightly: Schama is always sensitive to the human story that is often obscured behind the marmoreal nature of most art history. It is the unabashedly emotional aspect Schama often exhibits in his personal views of history that is most attractive. History devoid of humanity lacks dimension and Schama knows this instinctively. He brings that humanity to this video gloss of the American past, present and future, its contradictions and its hopes, its broken promises and its deferred dreams, and reveals the underlying American truths that constitute the marrow of its greatness as a nation.

His view of the American past - especially its treatment of its Asian, African and Latino minorities - is clear-eyed and often heartbreaking with its carefully researched and simply elucidated tales of cruelty, abuse and neglect. But with every new sorrow he balances his sadness with tales of brilliance, courage, honesty and truth from the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Montgomery Meigs (Quartermaster General under Lincoln) and John Wesley Powell, the geologist-explorer of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. It is through these tales of moral courage and intellectual honesty that the true greatness of the unfinished American experiment reveals itself and in which its future hopes reside. Schama examines the difficult immigrant experience and as an immigrant himself he embodies all of its poignant dreams for a better future. But it is a future challenged by our ever-increasing panoply of problems. This unique moment in history, symbolized by the election of Barack Obama as President, is a profound shift in the American landscape. For Schama it is an example of the transformative possibilities that are inherent in the framework of liberty as constructed by Jefferson as early as 1779 in his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. It is in the genius of its construction that all of Schama's hopes for the American future reside. This documentary is brilliant in its presentation of a complex story and Mr. Schama is equally brilliant in its presentation. Strongly recommended.

Mike Birman"
Most illuminating
Ellis Krauss | Encinitas, CA | 01/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I don't know what documentary the disappointed reviewer was watching but the Simon Schama "The American Future" I saw was anything but America-hating. It was realistic about America's very ambivalent past concerning racism, immigration and immigrants, depletion of natural resources, war, religion and the American dream but its basic message was almost invariably positive (maybe a tad too much so) in its conclusion. For example, the segment on natural resources ends with him talking about the resourcefulness of the American people when times get tough, and the one on the American dream ends with him talking about why he became an American citizen.Even the segment on America and war is designed to puncture European myths about the U.S. being a militaristic country. His take on the 2008 election which is a theme that runs through all the segments is both even-handed and uplifting. The series, as its title suggests, also has an uncanny knack for taking up contemporary and future American problems and issues and taking us on an interesting tour how the issue has been dealt with (poorly or well) through our past. Schama is one of the most insightful and intelligent of historians whether he turns his attention to art, British, or American history and discusses the latter with a down-to-earth, insightful, and wise eye for the evil as well as the great dimensions of the American character. Highly recommended."
A fresh, loving look at America
Electrohound | Los Angeles, CA USA | 01/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I disagree with one of the other reviewers here who seems to take great offense at some of Schama's observations about America. As a non-native born American citizen, and as a European-born Jew, he has some sober assessments of our society. But in the main, I found him to be mostly singing our praises and getting at the real heart of what makes this country great, despite its contradictions and sometimes ugly past. It's that perspective that makes the series so refreshing and good, and most importantly, thought-provoking."
Historian Simon Schama Turns His Insightful (and Personal) G
Ray | 04/29/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This short, four episode look at America is an insightful reflection done by historian Simon Schama, as elf described British man who has spent more than half his life in America. If one is familiar with Schama's other works, including his excellent written texts on the French Revolution and also The Netherlands during its incredible wealth period of the 17th century, this series will show the similarities in thinking which make Schama such an insightful and reflective reviewer of history. While I cannot say this series, which was made by the BBC during the American election cycle which saw the rise of the Obama presidency, rises to the level of Schama's previous series on The History of Britain, it nevertheless is a window on Schama's thoughts as he watched this historic election and reflected on what it might portent for America's future. And if one approaches this series with that in mind - that this is a reflection on a historic election and what it might mean for the future of America - then one should not be disappointed.

The four episodes are a bit uneven, with the stronger episodes being the last. Where the show may falter a bit is in the attempt to pull together what is an extensive and multi-faceted history of a large country into a short episode of only about an hour. This is essentially an impossible task, and when the series attempts to do so in one of the earlier episodes, anyone familiar with some of the details of American history will immediately see the issues in attempting to do so. But as in most of all Schama's works, the strength of the episodes lies in Schama's approach of taking a theme and then working the narrative around the theme to draw out both large and also more nuanced conclusions, leaving the observer to ponder some of the unanswered questions surrounding the theme.

If you are a Schama fan, there is the added benefit of watching a British man who has invested so much of his life in (and about America) coming to the conclusion that, in spite of the difficulties, America's future does indeed look bright, and perhaps can be even brighter with the right amount of effort and a correct approach towards moving forward. There are moments when it is truly touching to see Schama's feelings show forth on this most interesting of experiments, America.

Here's some Schama works not to be missed:
Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution
Landscape And Memory
Simon Schama's Power of Art
A History of Britain - The Complete Collection
The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age
Landscape And Memory"