Friday, January 17, 2014

Just a Minute

The new Heritage Minute on John A and confederation (it doesn't seem to be embedding, but you can find it here) has not amused Rick Salutin, who takes it on in a minute of his own at the Toronto Star

He thinks the Minutes (there's another on George-Etienne Cartier) are too full of praise for leaders and elites and too eager to make history "colourful" at all costs.  He doubts the whole idea of doing history in a minute.

(Disclosure: I consulted briefly on the development of these minutes – for a fee – but dropped out fairly early. There were way too many advisors sticking their oars in, and I felt most of us were just getting in the way for the filmmaker who actually had to find the story about which he could make a film. So, fair warning, I'm conflicted all over the place. I don’t feel any much ownership of them, but I like ‘em well enough. And I do think the director overcame the too-many-cooks challenge.)

Salutin is mistaken to declare the Minutes are inevitably preachy and hero-worshipping. Years ago, the historian John Thompson, an advisor on the early minutes, mostly made with Charles Bronfman’s money (plus some corporate sponsorship) -- but with a strong creative team --  told me there were “four, no, five Minutes that feature spunky young women confronting hidebound old men." -- hardly radical stuff, but with a nice sense of irreverence, and kinda anti-elitist, as I recall.

But Salutin is right about the official history status of the new series of Minutes from Historica. They are commissioned and funded by the federal government to cover specific topics – as were the two previous War of 1812 minutes made in 2012. They all hew closely to the historical themes the Harper government wants to fund -- another factor in my inclination to drift away.

Funny thing about Salutin’s take: he doubts you can do history in a minute. But The Star gets him to put his own point of view down in a minute and 22 seconds – and it’s cogent, vivid and strong.

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