Hollywood and History : Spike Lee's "Malcolm X"
Febus, Jeffrey S.
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The debate between historical fiction and historical fact has long been an issue of film and television theorists in relationship to historical representations in film and television productions. Recently, films such as Oliver Stone's "JFK" have raised questions on the concept of "truthtelling" in historical films produced by Hollywood that are aimed at mainstream audiences. The concept of "truthtelling" has become further clouded by Hollywood filmmakers who are using documentary film techniques in their recreations of historical events and figures. This master's thesis uses Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" as a case study on historical filmmaking in Hollywood. This thesis focuses on Lee's recreation of the life of Malcolm X in relationship to historical accuracy in a big budget Hollywood film. In order to assess Lee's film within a proper context, this thesis first gives an introduction to the techniques of documentary and historical filmmaking. Next, Lee's personal history, film career, and the events leading up to the production of "Malcolm X" are presented. Then, the historical and cultural context of Malcolm's life in the present and past is discussed. Finally, Lee's "Malcolm X" is examined from a critical standpoint. The critical analysis centers on how faithful Lee recreates the story of Malcolm X's life and he uses documentary and other film techniques in Malcolm X. The analysis also gives consideration to the financial demands of Hollywood and how they directly affect Lee's film.
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