THE PEOPLE SPEAK is a beautiful and moving film inspired by Howard Zinn s books A People s History of the United States first published in 1980 and one of the bestselling history books in the United States and Voices of a People s History of the United States, the primary-source companion to A People s History of the United States, edited with Anthony Arnove.
The film features the actual words (in letters, songs, poems, speeches, and manifestoes) of rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from our past and present including Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Bob Dylan, Langston Hughes, Chief Joseph, Muhammad Ali, and unknown veterans, union workers, abolitionists, and many others never featured in high school textbooks. These dramatic moments from our history are brought to life by a group of remarkable musicians and actors.
Like Howard Zinn s work as a whole, THE PEOPLE SPEAK celebrates the extraordinary possibilities for creating social change that ordinary people have realized throughout the course of our nation s rich but often ignored history of dissent and protest.
THE PEOPLE SPEAK is produced by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn, co-directed by Moore, Arnove and Zinn, and features dramatic and musical performances by Allison Moorer, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Robinson, Christina Kirk, Danny Glover, Darryl DMC McDaniels, David Strathairn, Don Cheadle, Eddie Vedder, Harris Yulin, Jasmine Guy, John Legend, Josh Brolin, Kathleen Chalfant, Kerry Washington, Lupe Fiasco, Marisa Tomei, Martín Espada, Matt Damon, Michael Ealy, Mike O'Malley, Morgan Freeman, P!nk, Q'orianka Kilcher, Reg E. Cathey, Rich Robinson, Rosario Dawson, Sandra Oh, Sean Penn, Staceyann Chin, Van Dyke Parks, and Viggo Mortensen. Narrated by Howard Zinn.
- Behind the Scenes at the Cutler Majestic Theatre
- Celebrity Interviews
The History Channel's The People Speak
combines a documentary with a stage show and a concert. The material comes from Howard Zinn's bestselling books, particularly A People's History of the United States
. As Zinn narrates, photographs and illustrations alternate with readings and performances that took place in Boston and Malibu, California, between 2008 and 2009 (Zinn passed away in 2010).
Producer Matt Damon, who grew up next door to the history professor, starts by reading from the Declaration of Independence, followed by other notables, among them Morgan Freeman (as Frederick Douglass), David Strathairn (John Brown), Marisa Tomei (Harriet Hanson Robinson), Sean Penn (Kevin Tillman, the brother of Pat Tillman), and coproducer Josh Brolin (Mark Twain). Others include Viggo Mortensen, Danny Glover, Kerry Washington, Benjamin Bratt, Rosario Dawson, and Don Cheadle, most of whom play several parts.
Some of the finest readers, however, aren't actors. Run-DMC's Darryl McDaniels, for instance, appears visibly shaken as he reads from "David Walker's Appeal." Except for Bob Dylan's croak on Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Mi" and the edit that splits John Legend's version of the traditional "No More Auction Block" in two, the songs all work well, particularly Eddie Vedder with Dylan's "Masters of War" and Bruce Springsteen with Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," the only selection recorded sans audience (Zinn doesn't mention it, but "Auction Block" inspired Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind"). Supplements include cast interviews and a featurette in which Damon notes that he originally envisioned the production as a television miniseries. --Kathleen C. Fennessy