Aristide/ Emperor Jones/ Burn! (HUM455)

The trailer for Aristide and the Endless Revolution:

Notes for a lecture on Eugene O’Neill’s Emperor Jones:

Finally, here’s a sharp little essay on the film I recommended the class watch, Gillo Pontecorvo’s Burn!:

You can screen the film via netflix instantview or on youtube (in 9 parts).

At issue is the way in which historical fiction (film included) inevitably represents the past according to the logic of the present. While Burn! takes place in the fictional early 19th century country of Queimada it was made during one of the fiercest Third World struggles in history, the US war in Vietnam. This historical context runs even deeper when you consider that the 1960s also witnessed the ongoing decolonization of Africa, the Cuban Revolution, and increasing political violence in Latin America. Pontecorvo is particularly interested in what happens to freedom struggles when they are manipulated by powerful outsiders. It is not an easy thing for whole peoples to liberate themselves after generations of subjugation. The degree of the changes entailed by the abolition of slavery in Haiti, for example, rendered social circumstances exceptionally unstable. Nor is there much chance that those fighting oppression will themselves remain morally unimpeachable. Big historical changes are complex and fraught with danger.