Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. Matt Damon narrates this biographical documentary about renowned author and political activist Howard Zinn, chronicling his commitment to social change. This includes archival materials, commentary from Zinn, and interviews with contemporaries Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Tom Hayden and Alice Walker, among others. Howard Zinn was a true American original. He fought for workers’ union rights at a time when they sorely needed representation. He was a white professor who taught at a southern black college and helped spearhead the fight for civil rights. He was one of the originators of passive resistance and civil disobedience, arrested and beaten for exercising his right to free speech. He actively spoke out against atrocities committed in Vietnam. He attacked the lies disseminated by those in power who seek only to advance the interests of the powerful & wealthy. Howard Zinn was one of the greatest historians / writers of our time. His mind was brilliant and so is this documentary. We get a glimpse of the man behind all those great words. The film tells us a little about the forces that shaped his views, and portrays a man of unshakable courage, even in the face of intimidation and physical danger. He is depicted as thoroughly admirable, and is in fact admired by many. Zinn’s life story is fascinating. His life in the slums of NYC, becoming a pro-labor union activist, then a WW II soldier who flew combat missions over Germany and France and later turned into a pro-peace activist during Vietnam, and later a prolific author of political books. Throughout this movie Zinn reveals himself to be not only a great thinker, but an exceptionally compassionate soul. This movie shows Howard Zinn as a good man who used his pulpit in academia to move this nation forward, for working-class people, for people involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and for others struggling to eke out an existence in a world that does not consider them worthy of attention. Zinn is a model for those willing to stand up to their government and speak out — such as the Tea Party (conservative) and the Occupy Wall Street movement (liberal). As a result, he and others have exercised their First Amendments rights and have been patriotic. Proof that there are many different kinds of courage, and many ways to “fight” for your country and be a true patriot. Thomas Paine and Patrick Henry were no doubt considered traitors by the English, but they are considered patriots by us today. Only a small number of discerning minds are pleased with the priorities, policies and actions taken by the US government recently. For everyone else, the ideas found in this film are seeds of social justice that produce real democracy. Zinn starts from this premise: The world is topsy-turvy. Critical and analytical minds see blatant corruption, cover-ups, hypocrisy in bailing out the rich, injustice of biased judges siding with the interest of big business, and the unconstitutional fascism of brutally beating and arresting peaceful protestors. The populace currently perceives corruption as being rampant throughout all branches of the US government both federal and state. Some of Zinn’s quotes in this film, paraphrased: ‘When one person kills another person, that is murder. When a government kills 100,000 people that is patriotism.’ ‘And they say were disturbing the peace. There is no peace. What really bothers them is we are disturbing the war.’ I’ve read many books and articles by Howard Zinn, most notably A People’s History of the United States, and consider myself to be a fan. Along with hundreds of thousands of other Americans, I have been greatly influenced by Mr. Zinn’s writings and by the example of his life. However I’ve never had the opportunity to watch & hear Zinn speak, and so this film filled that void for me. What a nice, easy-going guy he was. Such a likeable guy. I liked learning more about a man whom I greatly admire, and it was very inspiring to listen to his words about the state of the world today. For me Howard Zinn is one of the finest and most important Americans who contributed so much that continues to live on through his efforts to chronicle the mostly untold history of the USA. I thought he gave great hope and encouragement to the masses to wake up and speak up if you are not happy with how things are going. We will not see change until that happens. While I watched, I was thinking about so many people today who are complacent in their lives, watching sitcoms, shopping at the supermarket, buying the genetically modified foods, paying their insurance premiums, and staying one step ahead of any perceived life disasters which might make them wake up and smell the toxins. Thanks to Dr. Zinn for sharing your life and giving courage to those of us who have a perspective but not the voice to finally stand up and speak out. I really liked this documentary, and I highly recommend this for everyone to see, especially teens. This film is inspiring and should be viewed by all high school seniors in Social Studies, and then discussed. It’s what schools should be teaching our children and future leaders, business men and women, not just in our country but around the world as well. This documentary would be a good introduction to Howard Zinn for a high school or undergraduate class, or maybe an introduction to the anti-war movement or class struggle. I would recommend it to political activists and historians alike. Howard Zinn is a fascinating person whose writings should be standard reading for anyone interested in history. As a student of history, I appreciate the need to look beyond the official story, and that was what Zinn stood for in his life’s work, especially in A People’s History of the United States. This is a wonderful and inspirational documentary. Worth the watch. I recommend enjoying it and using 78 minutes of your life to grow! This film will make you think long and hard about America’s place in world history, and more importantly, it’s future. This is a film of a great man and great ideas. Howard Zinn was a great human being, a hero, plain and simple. There should be more people him in the world. We’ll miss you Howard. You were an intellectual oak in a field of wheat. Howard Zinn on film may yet light a beacon for future generations. I hope that a more complete documentary (or even a dramatization) of his life, is someday released. Documentary 2004 NR 78 minutes.
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