Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Based on a true story....

Like Galleycat Sarah Weinman, I wonder why anyone would fuss about HBO adding a made-up, mixed-race protagonist to its film adaptation of the nonfiction book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee:

"Everyone felt very strongly that we needed a white character or a part-white, part-Indian character to carry a contemporary white audience through this project," Daniel Giat, the writer who adapted the book for HBO Films, told a group of television writers earlier this year. "This was not an attempt to do the Ken Burns version of the Indian experience," Wolf said to Wyatt in an interview. "It is a dramatization, and we needed a protagonist." And that's the thing: of course it would be nice to have historically accurate movies but, um, it's a movie, not a documentary. Of course they are going to go for dramatic arcs even if they are fictionalized ones.

As Sarah points out, movies are entertainment, not history lessons. Even movies like Gandhi and Schindler's List and The Passion of the Christ aren't are scrupulously true, because some situations, characters, and dialogue have been made up for dramatic effect. But let's not kid ourselves; anyone who desires to make even a cursory study the life of Mahatma Gandhi, Oskar Schindler, or Jesus will hardly think of Hollywood as a primary source of information. Curious, intelligent people who view such films know they must look elsewhere for unvarnished facts.

I hope many people will watch HBO's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and be touched on such a deep emotional level that they'll be driven to find out the real story. Movies are indeed entertainment, but they don't have to be mindless entertainment.

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