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Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral On a Moving Train -- Special Commemorative Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In celebration of the life of Howard Zinn (1922 - 2010), First Run Features is releasing a commemorative edition of the 2004 film "Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train", complete with over an hour of extra bonus features and interviews.

New Bonus Materials Include: Bonus Speeches and Interviews (Zinn on power and war, philosophy, civil rights and labor activism. Excerpts with Studs Terkel, college talks and off-the-cuff interviews); Zinn's Recommended Reading List ; Speech Transcripts; Film Excerpts; Daniel Ellsberg's A Memory of Howard Zinn

In these turbulent times, Howard Zinn is inspiring a new generation. This acclaimed film looks at the amazing life of the renowned historian, activist and author. Following his early days as a shipyard labor organizer and bombardier in World War II, Zinn became an academic rebel and leader of civil disobedience in a time of institutionalized racism and war. His influential writings shine light on and bring voice to factory workers, immigrant laborers, African Americans, Native Americans and the working poor.

Featuring rare archival materials and interviews with Zinn and colleagues such as Noam Chomsky, You Can't Be Neutral captures the essence of this extraordinary man who has been a catalyst for progressive change for more than 60 years.

Narrated by Matt Damon and featuring music by Pearl Jam, Woody Guthrie & Billy Bragg!

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Matt Damon
  • Directors: Deb Ellis, Denis Mueller
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: First Run Features
  • DVD Release Date: September 21, 2010
  • Run Time: 78 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003BR8MEK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,532 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral On a Moving Train -- Special Commemorative Edition" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Wolfson VINE VOICE on May 19, 2005
Format: DVD
This is a marvelous film about an amazing man. Depending, of course, on your point of view. Which is Zinn's point. In any case, if you agree with Zinn, you'll love the movie. If you don't, but have an open mind, you might be interested in his ideas. And if you're Bill O'Reilly, don't even bother. Please.

The film follows Zinn from his experiences as a bomber pilot in WWII, through the birth of modern American activism in Atlanta (where he was fired from Spelman College for encouraging students in non-violent activism), through the Vietnam war, and up to his current activities and ideas. It also contains a very nice section about his book "The People's History of the United States," which looks at American history from the point of view of the victims. AND, it is the only mention I have ever seen in film or television of the tragic Ludlow, Colorado massacre of the strikers by those staunch defenders of American democracy: the Pinkertons. That's right, the mine owners brought in their own private army of Pinkertons who burned the strikers' tent city in the middle of a Colorado winter and then shot the survivors.

This film reminds us of what moral indignation is all about and the importance of taking a stand against tyranny in all its forms. Bill O'Reilly will, of course, disagree.
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Format: DVD
As an undergraduate at Boston University in the 1980's I had the advantage to take two of Dr. Howard Zinn's courses. Unfortunately, as a somewhat naive student from a conservative midwestern upbringing I did not take full advantage or fully appreciate the opportunity of studying under Dr. Zinn. Today, I was quite pleased to see a documentary about this amazing, yet contravesial man.

Whether or not you agree with Dr. Zinn's politics, it cannot be denied (especially after watching this documentary) that his motives are genuine. Dr. Zinn is really fighting for a better and truer form of what he defines as justice. It may be easy to disagree with him (I certainly do not agree with all his ideas or actions), this documentary makes it impossible to disagree that he is a man who really cares about what he is fighting for.

The documentary begins with his meager upbringing and discusses that although as a shipbuilder he could have received a deferment from fighting in World War II, he enlisted believing that fighting facism in Europe was the right thing to do. However, some of the things he was called upon to do as a pilot forced him to ponder on what means can and should be used to achieve a just end. The documentary then depicts the start of his activism as a white teacher in a black college in Atlanta during the early days of the racial movement in the South. The documentary covers his life from those early days throughout his career.

Although the documentary is not what you could call balanced in that none of Dr. Zinn's opponents are interviewed, I do not find that as a fault. I do not think the purpose of this documentary was to be a completely balanced protrayal leaving it up to the viewer to make his or her own decision about Dr.
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Sometimes I find the thoughts of Zinn's detractors to be at least as interesting as those of his admirers. Bernard Chapin's negative review was no exception. Chapin holds a world view that our militarists are constantly pushing in an attempt to rationalize their aggression; that is, "foul acts like murder, slavery, and wanton destruction are ubiquitous to humanity, and were committed by people all over the world since the beginning of time" (to quote Chapin's review of Pat Buchanan's "State of Emergency"). There is usually an element of truth to effective propaganda and, no doubt, the Nazis, Genghis Khan, Stalin, child abusers, rapists and others have resorted to similar rationalizations for their own "foul acts." Zinn, on the other hand,

resists the perception management efforts that make war easy. Instead, he's been a tireless advocate for the causes of peace and justice. He's been at the war protests, stood in the picket lines, lectured/written tirelessly, and he's supported groups like "Emergency" that sends doctors into war zones to try to stitch together the bodies torn apart by the "wanton destruction" of Western so-called Civilization.

Zinn himself has directly participated in that destruction. As a World War II bombadeer, he was part of a raid that pioneered the use of napalm. It was an act for which many would have sought some psychologically comforting justification. Zinn instead chose to be honest about the inexcusable barbarity of burning civilians alive, and dedicated himself to resisting the efforts of our warlords. One of his many insights that undercut the narratives of our military establishment is this bit of good news that appears towards the end of the film, Zinn is quoted as saying, "To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic.
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I first became aware of Howard Zinn when a client left a copy of his "A People's History of the United States" as a reference for a paper I was helping him write: I was astounded and moved. I got my own copy of the history and "The Zinn Papers." I saw that last few minutes of "Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train" on the Sundance Network and getting it became paramount. The video made me remember Zinn: this white guy that was part of the Civil Rights and Anti Vietnam War movements. The pieces of the puzzle were placed. Howard Zinn is more important to America than has been acknowledged. His history is essential. To me he equals Franz Fanon in explaining how people really make history, and how badly history has been taught in U.S. schools, and how badly we have been led. Zinn qualifies as a philosopher. Zinn's history will scare many who have bought into white supremacy history. Serious history buffs should have his video and his history. It's a wonderful reference and a truth that must be told.
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