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Canterbury academic historian to explain Hollywood

Canterbury academic historian to explain Hollywood’s film industry next week

May 8, 2014

A leading University of Canterbury academic historian, who is an expert in the American movie industry, will give a public lecture next week looking at whether Hollywood got history right.

College of Arts’ Associate Professor Peter Field will raise issues such as whether there a premium on truth in the movies and if Hollywood’s take on history have a specific slant?

He will give his lecture on campus next Wednesday May 14. View a preview video here:

``Hollywood at the beginning of the 21st century stands as the United States’ most valuable export, grossing billions of dollars worldwide.

``With so many people watching its movies, Hollywood is also the number one purveyor of stories about America and its history.

``In just the last year audiences have enjoyed Hollywood’s take on slavery, civil rights, the operation that killed Osama bin Laden and the triumph of Abraham Lincoln—to name only a few.

``How sensible, then, to ask if Hollywood has gotten its history right. When I was at Princeton University I got a chance to listen to film producer Martin Scorsese give a talk.

``We were only a small group and one student asked him what was Hollywood’s responsibility when it took on historic events with its films.

``Scorsese was taken aback. He said when people go into McDonald’s restaurants do they ask them what their responsibility was for culinary art for the people’s health?

``I think Scorsese’s indirect answer was actually ‘Hollywood’s number one directive is making money’. The colour of Hollywood isn’t the political red or blue colours it is green, for money.

``We know that Hollywood is an industry and has interests. Hollywood stands for the large American film-making industry and it is largely for America. During World War 2 a lot of Hollywood movies took on war preparedness with patriotic movies. But since the Vietnam war, Hollywood movies have become more critical and they have shown a more jaundiced view of American politics.

``So Hollywood takes up historical subjects and when it does so it does with its own left, right or green slant.’’

Associate Professor Field was a classmate of US President Barack Obama at Columbia University in the 1980s. For further details about next week’s lecture:

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