I found this film to be a good and quick overview of the Renaissance. It wasn't too biased in any one direction and there weren't bloody re-enactments of war. It was mostly illustrated by paintings. The historian narrating (Theodore Rabb) assumed familiarity with some things, like who were Luther and Copernicus, so I had to stop a few times and give just a little background information to my students, but those stops would be a great jumping-off points for more in-depth study! I suggest watching it with your kids to see where they have interest or questions and then finding books or films to facilitate discussion. Enjoy!
This is the concluding episode of a six-part series called *Renaissance*, although there are only four offered here, and it looks as if each episode has been chopped down from its original 55 minutes to 28 (probably to accommodate college and high school courses). The series was made for PBS sometime in the `eighties, I think. It was at the height of the postmodern critique of white Western culture and knowledge, and there is a bit of white Western defensive anxiety perceptible in Ian Richardson's introductions to the episodes. Nevertheless, it's a well-made portrait of what most mainstream historians regard as the accomplishments of the Renaissance. Very little of what wasn't so accomplished about it is addressed. For example, the series is structured around five archetypal figures: the dissenter, the warrior, the artist, the prince, and the scientist. I couldn't help but wonder: Where is the witch? Or even the witchfinder, if a whole episode on women would be just too much to ask of these filmmakers.
I taped the series several years ago when it was offered on my (no commercial breaks) public television channel, and I have watched all of them several times simply because they are excellent eye-candy. I pick up something new about documentary-making every time. Each episode features good actors who deliver direct quotations from the various Renaissance sources - Luther, Galileo, Leonardo, etc. -- which creates a nice balance with the talking (academic) heads. The visuals are delicious and the re-enactments well done. I would certainly purchase this series if all six 55-minute episodes were available as a 3-disc set and sold for a reasonable price. Because it's certainly not worth 30 American dollars for a 28 minute episode.