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Seeing Prohibition with your very eyes
on 26 December 2012
I read Okrent's book, `Last Call' (on which this documentary is based) last year and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I enjoyed this documentary quite as well.
There are three dvds in here, for a total of more than 6 hours of footage. The first dvd covers the birth of the idea of prohibiting alcohol from Americans' lives, back in the 1800s: how people lived, what they drank and how much, how this affected everyday life, how the first prohibition movements worked. The second discusses the life of the 18th Amendment: how it was lobbied by the anti-saloon league, the way distrust towards immigrants played a big part in it, how this changed the life of people, especially youth. The last dvd addresses the way gangsters profited from the law, how this took away the trust of people for the law and order and especially for Prohibition, how when the Great Depression kicked in the 18th Amendment was finally repealed.
There is a huge amount of images from the time discussed. Mainly photographs in the first dvd, but a huge amount of it. So many videos in the other two, coming from Twenties films, but also non-fiction footage and even some personal photos and video. I love this.
Beside interview with experts - including Okrent - there are a number of interviews with people who were young during Prohibition. Oral history is incredible. People who remember often have a very different view, their tales have a different mood from the commentary from experts. And the one always enriches the other.
There is a thing where the documentary goes in a different direction than the book. Where the book focuses on everyday life and the way Prohibition affected it, the documentary focuses more on personalities. Politicians, anti-saloon league members, judges, cops, personalities of different kind, including journalists and gangsters. Where the book only touches upon these people's life and involvement in Prohibition, the documentary gives a full portrait of them, and I liked a lot the way stories mixed with images. It gives a very strong feeling for the era.
So, maybe there is nothing particularly new about the info the documentary provides: it's the same as the book, is basically the same as so many other books about Prohibition. But I loved the footage. In a way, it was like being there.