Posted November 25, 2013
by Jerry Alatalo
Oliver Stone‘s documentary “The Untold History of the United States” is almost a film adaptation of Howard Zinn‘s book “A People’s History of the United States“. I have always been an admirer of the films made by Mr. Stone, as he has an artist’s viewpoint when he begins film projects, which is consistent all the way through to completion.
Oliver Stone served the military in Vietnam, where one could see how he developed a seriousness about life that has held to this time. He has mentioned how he has evolved through the years since Vietnam, studying in film school, and one after another movies since coming out of university. I haven’t viewed them all, but the ones that stood out were “Salvador”, “Born On the Fourth of July“, and “JFK”.
In “Born On the Fourth of July” there was the scene toward the end where the soldier played by William Dafoe, as the helicopter carrying other soldiers was leaving and unable to save Dafoe’s character, was trying to run from enemy gunfire, and eventually shot dead. Dafoe’s character drops to his knees at the point where he dies, raising his arms in a final gesture, in one of the most powerful scenes in war film history.
Stone made “Untold History” with historian Peter Kuznick, and the film version runs over 5 hours in length. For any person wishing to find an “unsanitized” version of history, Stone and Kuznick’s collaboration is the place to begin. One thing that is good about Oliver Stone is that he has a strong loyalty to truth in any film project he undertakes, as opposed to politically biased and slanted products coming out of Hollywood.
As one who found Howard Zinn’s “People’s History” a very powerful book about the events that have not been told in the typical American student’s history texts, I am grateful to Stone and Kuznick for what they have done. Their twelve part series is now available for every person, young or old, to come to know the facts of history in the best, most easily accessible manner, with a true telling of it on film.
Stone’s next film project will be on Martin Luther King, with Jamie Foxx portraying King. Perhaps Stone is more of a docu-dramatist than simply a filmmaker. His history documentary, as well as his traditional movies, are all filled with drama, and he has an ability to create works which viewers find hard to turn away from or ignore. I believe this is because of Stone’s loyalty to truth-telling, shared by most of the men and women who appreciate finding truth through art.
So, if you couldn’t tell, I am a huge fan of Oliver Stone, and think he raises the bar for filmmakers every time he produces a work. People can be grateful to share the same lifetime with someone like Oliver Stone, a man who reaches for the highest form of artistic expression. His experience in Vietnam, where he witnessed war and its brutal killing, has led him to fully learn that life ends, and that he has to contribute in some good way to the people of this Earth.
Oliver Stone is one of the good people. He deserves all the good wishes and respect from all the good people for his efforts to share truth. Great thanks are in order for Stone and Kuznick, for their work in trying to offer up the lessons and mistakes of history.
So that humanity will look at the world differently.
(Video source: Breakingtheset – YouTube)
- Oliver Stone on His Next Project, a Martin Luther King Jr. Biopic With Jamie Foxx (democracynow.org)
- Oliver Stone on JFK assassination: Government couldn’t pull it off now (suntimes.com)
- Oliver Stone on 50th Anniversary of JFK Assassination & the Untold History of the United States (alternet.org)
- A prayer for a war machine: a conversation about Oliver Stone’s “Untold History” (rogerebert.com)