On Saturday night this Family Weekend, the College of Film and the Moving Image is screening Hamilton’s America, a film directed by Alex Horwitz ’02.
Hamilton’s America shows just how timeless the hot-button issues of today’s America are: immigration, States’ rights, debt, income inequality, and race relations. These were the same fights that defined Hamilton’s time, and they are the driving force of Miranda’s historic work. The film endeavors to brush the dust off American history, much as the musical does, and provide a unique new way for us to view our national heritage and current political landscape.
A unique window into the artistry and research involved in making the show, viewers will witness Miranda at the White House in 2009 performing an early version of what would become “Alexander Hamilton,” the first number in the musical, and they will also be given an inside view of Miranda as he composes songs in Aaron Burr’s Manhattan bedroom. They will travel to Virginia with Christopher Jackson – who was Tony®-nominated for his portrayal of George Washington in the musical – as he reveals his personal struggle preparing for the role, while grappling with our Founder’s legacy of slavery. Back in New York, Miranda, who originated the Tony®-nominated role of Hamilton in the musical and Leslie Odom, Jr. – who won a Tony Award® for his portrayal of Aaron Burr – visit the Museum of American Finance to get a deeper understanding of the historical figures they are depicting on stage, including a memorable moment from this research trip, when the two actors brandish authentic 19th-century dueling pistols.
It will be wonderful to see this film on the big screen. If you can’t make it Saturday night, you can still watch the film here.
Two other recent documentaries directed by Wesleyan alumni were recently brought to my attention. Randy McLowry ’86 has a new film airing on PBS’s American Experience on November 1st. Professor Scott Higgins tells me that “Randy is a terrific filmmaker who continues to produce and direct interesting work for PBS and others.” The Battle of Chosin tells the story of a crucial, and harrowing, battle in the Korean War.
“The Battle of Chosin contains remarkably compelling archival footage and photographs, but its real strength is its cast of veterans, who recount their experiences in intimate detail,” said Mark Samels, American Experience executive producer. “Representing a cross section of America, these men tell stories that are often heartrending, but which affirm the valor and dedication of those who served during the brutal days and nights at Chosin. It’s important that we capture their stories now, in their own words, before we lose them.”
You can read more about the film here.
Finally, Roger Weisberg ’75 directed Dream On, which also premiered this fall on PBS. This film examines what’s happened to the American Dream in the age of downsizing and disinvestment from the public good.
Dream On investigates the perilous state of the American Dream after decades of rising income inequality and declining economic mobility. In an epic road trip, political comedian John Fugelsang retraces the journey of Alexis de Tocqueville, whose study of our young country in 1831 came to define America as a place where anyone, of any background, could climb the ladder of economic opportunity.
Roger has a long list of distinguished documentaries to his credit, and Dream On powerfully demonstrates his continued passion for filmmaking in the service of social justice. You can read more about the film (and see it!) here.
Wesleyan documentary filmmakers challenge the world as they envision it for the screen. I’m so proud of the work they are doing!