The AHA Film Festival
Chris Hale, February 2013
It was standing/sitting-room-only during this year's film festival, primarily due the presence of esteemed filmmaker John Sayles, at screenings of six of his films: Eight Men Out, Amigo, Lone Star, Matewan, Men with Guns, and Sunshine State. Not only did Sayles introduce each film, he also shared his experiences of making the film, which was an added bonus. Listening to Sayles recount his many interesting anecdotes and recollections was rather like having a live and interactive DVD commentary track —the ultimate bonus feature—and though each discussion lasted almost as long as the films themselves, they were all facsinating and well worth the extra time (be sure to check out our video of Sayles's session "Thinking Through History with John Sayles"). The quality of the films speak for themselves (Lone Star is still one of my all-time favorite films and was a major influence on my decision to continue history studies in graduate school). Prior to the festival, Amigo and Men with Guns were the only ones that I hadn't seen; Amigo—an intimate look at both sides of the U.S.-Philippine War of 1899—is another first-rate entry into the Sayles cannon and a must-see. The AHA thanks Sayles for graciously sharing his memories and most importantly, his time, to make this years film festival a truly special and unique experience.
Another highlight of this year's festival was the Saturday evening screening of The Loving Story, winner of the 2012 John E. O'Connor Film Award (see the citation). Director Nancy Buirski was also on hand to introduce the film and, after the screening, share her own experiences of making it. The Loving Story is a well-made personal look at the couple behind the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage. It deftly balances both the expository legalese and emotional romance sides of the story, and is highly recommended for personal viewing or classroom use.
Chris Hale is the AHA's publications production manager.