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Homo Sapiens 1900

3.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

HOMO SAPIENS 1900 is a stunning exploration of the history of eugenics, race hygiene and the quest to improve the human race. Emerging at the turn of the century, eugenic movements spawned government sanctioned research projects, whose stated goals were the improvement of the human species through biological means - including selective breeding, sterilization, and the elimination of all 'degenerate' members of society.

In the United States, the American Eugenics Society promoted the ratification of the world's first sterilization law, while Germany and the Soviet Union, in their efforts to build utopian societies, developed their own horrific applications. Unearthing startling archival footage and long-hidden documents, HOMO SAPIENS 1900 examines the social and political undercurrents that helped generate the often-feverish quest to build a superior race.

Review

There's something intrinsically creepy about the scientific quest to create a new and improved human being, and Peter Cohen's unsettling documentary on the history of eugenics, mercilessly zeroes in on exactly what that is. In turning people into laboratory specimens and using genetic theory to try to breed superior strains of people, scientists play God... --The New York Times

Monumental, astonishing! A bone-chilling and gut-wrenching history of eugenics - a.k.a racial hygiene - in the 20th century. Highly recommended. --Video Librarian

Powerful and vivid. A stark reminder of how science can be invoked for unethical purposes. --Journal of the American Medical Association

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Jan Holmquist, Stephen Rappaport
  • Directors: Peter Cohen
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: FIRST RUN FEATURES
  • DVD Release Date: September 21, 2004
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002J4ZOQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,670 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Homo Sapiens 1900" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is film as literature. A dense, intelligent, thought provoking meditation on the (then) psuedo-science of eugenics, and how nascent and undeveloped scientific ideas can become the battlefield on which political ideologies wage war. In particular, the film shows that far from being the creation of Hitler and the Nazi party, eugenics theories and policies were widespread in the United States as well as in Europe. At one point, twenty US States had sterilization laws on the books. The Soviet Union also had it own form of eugenics it tried in implement so as to create the "new socialist man." If you don't know your Mendalism from your Lamarkiansim from your Lysenjoism; or if you can't tell your positive eugenics from your negative eugenics; or if you were unaware that the nudist movement was a result of eugenics ideas, you should really watch this riveting documentary. It inspired a research project for me and made me aware of the fact that with the patenting of the 60,000 human genes, eugenics is an issue we should all learn more about so as to prepare us for it's future formations and dangers. A brilliant film from a brilliant film maker. Also see this filmakers other documentary masterwork- The Architecture of Doom.
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Overall, this was aboit 45 minutes to an hour worth of content stretched out to an hour an 20 minutes via long pauses, unrelated montages and slow narration. While it explained the ideas behind the various schools of thought. There was very little quantization of the effects. For example, while there was a wave of eugenics in the United States, very little is offered addressing the scope. An American film series was discussed and shown but no mention of how successful it was or how widely it was viewed was given.

This is where the movie really fell down for me. Was eugenics widely practised or merely a niche branch of science? While it was obviously critically important for the Nazi regime based on the mass murders conducted, I really couldn't get a sense of the ebbs and flows of scientific and popular support for the ideas behind them in the world as a whole.
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Peter Cohen's documentary provides an excellent overview of racial hygiene programs fostered by 20th century governments that sought to create utopian societies and citizens. The issues raised by this film are even more pertinent in the 21st century as pharmaceuticals and genetic engineering are already interceding into the natural biological functioning of human beings. Pressure is being brought to bear by society and corporations for even higher levels of individual performance and physical appearance. Science is being used to enable individuals to go beyond what would normally be humanly possible. There has been little public discussion of the implications of these bio-ethical issues as companies rush to patent bioengineering technology. Cohen's documentary is a good starting point to see where this merger of science and the desire for human perfectability began.

Other sources I would recommend:

"Theory of Evolution: A History of Controversy," taught by Prof. Edward J. Larsen. This is a college course available on DVD through The Teaching Company. Prof. Larsen explains the scientific theories (e.g., Lamarkianism) that are mentioned in Cohen's documentary. He also addresses the issue of eugenics.

"Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream," a fascinating and even entertaining book by Carl Elliott, a professor of bioethics at the Univ. of Minnesota.
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This make interesting, if sometimes uncomfortable viewing. It spans the years introducing you to different systems and regimes in which the rise of white, educated and 'normal' people were the basis of some countries idealistic views to a propsperous and powerful future. This is not just about Hitler and Germany, but delves before this time, where perhaps surprisingly it uncovers that it was not just the Germans who had the view that 'white supremacy' was the way forward. Needs to be viewed with an open mind and looked at with a view to the 'bigger picture' that these people were attempting to obtain.
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A great documentary about the mentality that is still romanced today by so many people around the world. A ideology of a perfect world that has no scientific backing what so ever.... A must see.
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Seemed a little slow and somewhat boring to me. I'm pretty open and understanding to things but I suffered through 90 minutes of this.
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Pauses lasted away too long. Hard to stay with the documentary with all the black and silent screen times.
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