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Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States [DVD]
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From Academy Award-winning film director and screenwriter, Oliver Stone comes this fascinating documentary series that covers the last 60 years of American History. It focusses on the dramatically under-reported events of the era that shaped the USA. The series also includes newly discovered facts from the Kennedy administration and the Vietnam War, and looks at how America achieved its current global role post-Cold War.
''THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES focuses on events that at the time went under-reported, but crucially shaped America's unique and complex history of the last 110 years. The series debunks the heroes by restating the facts, whilst crediting those heroes lost to history. Exploring questions such as What did Stalin say to President Truman to make him drop the atomic bomb on Japan?; Did Eisenhower betray the US?; What were the real reasons behind World War 1 and II? and Was Reagan one of the worst or best Presidents of all time?, the American story is told in a way that has never been told before. It is the deepest contribution I could ever make in film to my children and the next generation. I can only hope a change in our thinking will result.'' OLIVER STONE
Oliver Stone is the legendary film director, producer and screenwriter. Recalling films such as Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July and JFK, Stone is known as the master of controversial subjects and has won numerous Academy Awards for his portrayal of contemporary political and cultural issues.
WARNING: Please note that this DVD contains some strong language.
Director Oliver Stone has brought his take on American history, in some flavours, to the big screen before. Most notably his films of Nixon and J.F.K. have much to say about US politics, whilst his trilogy of films centered around the Vietnam War are equally forthright in their position on a major historical event in American history. With The Untold History of the United States however, an engrossing documentary series, Stone aims to shed light on events that haven't received quite the same level of attention.
It's a bold aim, and The Untold History of the United States is successful in matching it. As you might expect, Stone doesn't pull punches, with an emphasis more on archive material than interviewing a conveyor belt of experts. Furthermore, he certainly has a position on the material he's covering, and it'd be remiss to say he even attempts to be a fully impartial guide through it. Yet he is a compelling one, and as a consequence of that, the series itself is both revealing and thought-provoking.
It took four years for Oliver Stone to pull together The Untold History of the United States, with his own feature film commitments not helping. But it was certainly worth it: a fascinating, not always agreeable but always compulsive series, that deserves to be watched and thoroughly debated. --Jon FosterSee all Product description
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This is one of the most compelling documentary series that I've ever seen. I'm no film buff but Oliver Stone's name is writ large in cinema and his skill shows through here. As a narrator he's got a certain gravitas - something that I would not have expected.
There's no doubt in my mind that Stone has an anti-establishment bias but I find myself wondering if it might not be justified. To me, the second world war is ancient history and I was a child during Vietnam and remember little, if any of it. To see a warts and all, in-depth discussion on the period following 1945, the mess that the west has made of the Middle East through meddling and the interventions in South America that the US government sponsored (or worse) is eye opening - and I consider my self to be both a natural sceptic and politically interested. While the focus is predictably on the USA, the UK doesn't escape criticism. Recent events with the "dodgy dossier" that pre-empted the UK's involvement in the 2nd Iraq War, and recent revelations about the scope of the US PRISM project, and the suggestion that the UK's GCHQ has even more pervasive access under a weaker governance framework leads me to conclude that both countries are still "at it" and that Stone, despite my natural scepticism has probably, if anything, underplayed his story.
In the interests of fairness, I would dearly love to see an equally well produced production refuting Stone's position. Either way, it's a fascinating view of recent history. Visceral, graphic and if I'm honest, deeply depressing if the opportunities for peace and cooperation described and actively squandered or sabotaged, are true.
One of the most remarkable in the season (currently airing on Sky Atlantic) is the episode covering the Kennedy administration. Stone is transparent in outlining the real ambiguities, both in the man and his presidency. Initially he seemed to be something of a true cold warrior, only to embark on what seems to have been a real sea change in his last year on earth. At no point does one get to see JFK through rose-tinted spectacles. His initial, apparent support for the Vietnam war is made only too clear, whilst his later decision to pull out of Vietnam (which he was unable to see through)is also poignantly elaborated upon.
Kruschev too is painted in all colours, not just one. So one comes away thinking that these men were genuinely learning some stuff as they went along. Overall, the series is a tribute to Stone's ability to tell a story (literally in this case, as he compellingly narrates, with a kind of gravelly gravitas) extremely well, and to keep it moving, knowing when to focus on just the right pivotal moment. This is a triumph which deserves to be seen by anyone interested in a genuinely alternative take on America's place in the world, in the last 60 years.
This brilliant, provocative series tells a narrative history of global concerns, as seen through the prism of the United States. Co-written, directed and narrated by multiple Oscar-winning film director Oliver Stone (Platoon, Wall Street, JFK), this amazing series is absolutely essential viewing.
Beginning with the Russian revolution and the First World War and taking us through the Second World War, the Cold War and the post-Cold War years, finishing with 9/11, George W. Bush, the financial collapse and Barack Obama, Untold History plays out a dense tableau of characters and events, both familiar and forgotten. This is in no way a Great Man theory of history, so while certain people are writ large, such as Franklin Roosevelt, largely forgotten characters such as Vice President Henry Wallace and Major General Smedley Butler also get due prominence.
Writers Stone and American University Professor of History Peter Kuznick also give credit to the importance of an informed populace in shaping world events and acting as a break on the worst excesses of government - and that is probably the raison d'etre of this groundbreaking series. It would explain why this was four years in the making and why Oliver Stone considers it his legacy, the most important piece of work he has ever undertaken.
This series will of course be criticised as biased, one-sided, blame-America-first socialist propaganda and other a priori techniques designed to shut down and censor debate. The "other side" to this debate, if you like, is that which is churned out by the mainstream media on a daily basis. What this series does is provide a counter-weight to the fourth arm of government, a necessary corrective to keep our minds sharp and questioning, to not get too comfortable nor to slip in to easy cynicism.
The Untold History of the United States is a collection of amazing archive footage, sometimes with the backing of dramatic music and narrated over by Stone himself. Each episode is crammed with so much information, names, dates, facts and figures that, as highly watchable as it is, it is almost too much to take in, in one sitting. Almost. As befits one of the best filmmakers in the United States, Stone fundamentally understands the rhythms of the visual medium and keeps his audience's interest throughout. This is simply fascinating, riveting stuff (even for non-Americans) and is sure to start a debate with everyone who sees it. For those who still want more after this finishes, or if you want to reference where all these facts come from, a companion book of the same name by the same two people is also available. Simply put, Untold History is essential viewing and one of the most important documentary series ever made, right up there with the classic The World At War.
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