Feature film as a secondary source in historical learning

Abstract. A true account of history depends on how reliable the source of the accounts is, and how correct facts about the event are. Primarily, historical accounts are built on what people narrate about particular incidents and events. However, people are motivated differently to give facts or fictitious accounts about a particular event. In the feature films, most story plots have been developed along the common narration in the mainstream media. Others have been altered to ensure that the films are entertaining and meet the expectations of the target audience. However, some of the incidents may or may not have occurred as shown in these movies. This topic explains the ever changing facts about the Vietnam War as shown in the films. It explains how some of the facts have been changed, some of the myths have been developed to be believed as facts and how fiction has changed history.

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82 HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1067.2018-0053 Social Sciences, 2018, Volume 63, Issue 7, pp. 82-88 This paper is available online at FEATURE FILM AS A SECONDARY SOURCE IN HISTORICAL LEARNING Hoang Thi Nga1 and Maria Zakharova 2 1 Hanoi Pedagogical University Number 2, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany 2 Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany Abstract. A true account of history depends on how reliable the source of the accounts is, and how correct facts about the event are. Primarily, historical accounts are built on what people narrate about particular incidents and events. However, people are motivated differently to give facts or fictitious accounts about a particular event. In the feature films, most story plots have been developed along the common narration in the mainstream media. Others have been altered to ensure that the films are entertaining and meet the expectations of the target audience. However, some of the incidents may or may not have occurred as shown in these movies. This topic explains the ever changing facts about the Vietnam War as shown in the films. It explains how some of the facts have been changed, some of the myths have been developed to be believed as facts and how fiction has changed history. Keywords: Feature film, secondary source, primary source, historical learning. 1. Introduction A true account of history depends on how reliable the source of the accounts is, and how correct facts about the event are. Primarily, historical accounts are built on what people narrate about particular incidents and events. However, people are motivated differently to give facts or fictitious accounts about a particular event. In the feature films, most story plots have been developed along the common narration in the mainstream media. Others have been altered to ensure that the films are entertaining and meet the expectations of the target audience. However, some of the incidents may or may not have occurred as shown in these movies. This topic explains the ever changing facts about the Vietnam War as shown in the films. It explains how some of the facts have been changed, some of the myths have been developed to be believed as facts and how fiction has changed history. 2. Content 2.1. Feature Film and History The reliability of any facts is determined by how reliable the sources of those facts are [1,749]. The content of any film or any historical records is built either from the original work of those who experienced the event or secondary work built from the work of other researchers [1,749]. The reliability of the primary sources on which the information given on the feature films depends on the objective of any particular writer or the source. Received February 7, 2018. Accepted May 29, 2018. Contact Hoang Thi Nga, e-mail address: hoangnga102009@gmail.com Feature film as a secondary source in historical learning 83 Different primary sources have been written for different audiences. They are meant to serve a particular purpose for that audience such as promote propaganda, educate the audience, motivate the audience to a particular course or even drive them against a particular course. Consequently, primary sources become relevant when they are serving the purpose they were meant to serve [10]. Any feature film developed out of any particular primary source or a series of primary sources becomes the secondary source of information [11]. The feature film is developed on such primary sources and projected as the secondary sources. Information on which a feature film plot is developed is a collection of information that has been collected from various other sources and put together to form the film. Therefore they form secondary sources which have the following advantages: One of the advantages of the film as a source is the motivational aspect for historical learning. “There is no source, no medium, that has such an intensity, fascination, suggestivity, expressivity and experience quality such as film” [15, 380] according to Schneider. The secondary source is a more complete source than the primary source [8, 35]. Primary sources are believed to have recorded the information directly as the events have happened. However, the secondary sources are developed as a more complete source. Often, a secondary source will take a particular field or line of information that the primary source did not complete to carry further studies on it. It reviews various sources of information that are relevant to that line of information and add what may have been left out from the primary source. For example, a film that explains the tactics applied by the United States Army may be more relevant, than tactical records put together in a film illustrates how these tactics were applied. The secondary sources eliminate information that has been proven not to be factual [8, 35]. Secondary sources revise the primary sources to ensure that the information which is provided correctly. Different primary accounts may have a number of different information about a particular event. The primary sources may have also recorded information that is not factual as per the events that happened. It is upon the secondary sources to carry out further research to find out information that is correct for that particular event. The secondary source may also have to carry out particular primary data collection to get new facts about the event [13]. The feature film has to prove that its plot is factual if they claim that the plot is developed on factual accounts. They may also have to carry out their own research to get further information on the event that occurred. Consequently, they eliminate the information that is not factual. For example, the notion that the Viet Cong fighters in the Vietnam War have always been reviewed where they have been portrayed to have better tactics than the previous films. Secondary sources generate new insight into the historic events [10]. Secondary sources collect information on an event by reviewing the relevant primary sources that give information on that event. From such reviews, the secondary sources may give a fresh insight that may not have been given by the primary source. The authors of secondary sources apply their own judgment on the event to evaluate whether the information given by the author of the primary source was complete and precise as per the event. They may also give a further interpretation about the event that was not in the primary source. The feature films give a fresh insight into the historical facts under study by simulating the events that occurred in the previous time [5, 712]. It generates the circumstances that were surrounding the agents that led to the events and then explains how each event led to the other eventually leading to the ultimate event. No film can show the exact reality because even historians cannot depict the past, it is always reconstructed. History is always a construction or an interpretation [17]. None of us has seen the historical event, we can only reconstruct it from sources and assume how it could have been. According to Klaus Bergmann, history is always a current thought about past human thinking, acting, and suffering [3,37]. Also, Michael Sauer says that history is understood through action Hoang Thi Nga and Maria Zakharova 84 and thinking of humans, and the film involves the spectator emotionally, which gives the viewer an understanding of history [14, 182]. One of the competences in historical learning is the narrative competence: “Narrative competence is the ability to create a coherent story out of temporal different occasions through construction of meaning” [18,257] in other words “to narrate in history means, to explain and interpret the past” [2,257]. Films narrate about the past and contribute to the narrative competence [17] . Secondary sources provide comparison between different researchers [7,213]. The secondary sources review both primary sources that have recorded the particular event under study and other secondary sources that have been written on the particular event. From search sources, the secondary source being developed analyses these sources to give a better view from them. It compares the accounts from different authors and how each of these accounts differs from the other. They also give strands of thoughts that have been given by some authors and compare them among each other [4, 3]. They may also give their own views and compare with the strand of thoughts that have been given by other authors. Such analyses ensure that the reader has a better understanding of the information written by different authors. Similarly, feature films also review various accounts given by various authors and then develop a plot that incorporates all these reviews. It will be developed on a plot line that is more common or even unique therefore giving more ideas on the event. The deconstruction or analysis of films can develop reflected converse with history and critical dealing with sociocultural interpretations of history [17]. “Historical films are very appropriate for deconstruction” [12]. The fraction with the reality through unrealistic characters cause question about the depiction of the narrative pattern and activates the “Wirklichkeitsbewusstsein” (reality consciousness) which is one of seven dimensions according to Pandel [12]. 2.2. The Significance of the Feature Films in historical learning Feature Films have been applied extensively in classes to enhance studies among students. They have changed how studies are conducted and the applicability of sources of history in a class. They have also changed how information that is presented in the classroom is viewed and the need for its validity verified. However, their applicability has only been limited to how such films are relevant to the topic being studied and also their accuracy in portraying the information pertaining to that event. The significance of these films can be evaluated in the following ways in any classroom: a. Feature films motivate historical inquiry [19, 62], because the feature films simulate particular events that occurred in the past by trying to make them seem as accurate as possible. The script in which the actors are developed tries as much as possible to be as relevant to that of the historical event in which the character being emulated took part. Through such a simulation of events, the film evokes the need to evaluate the agents and circumstances that led to the event. The script may even bring into question the validity of such circumstances or bring up the controversy that underlies the event that took place. In such a case, the film opens up questions that need to be explained to fully understand the film. This may lead the student to understand the film and historical events further. b. The feature films have often been based on both facts and fiction, therefor, the feature films help in supplying more evidence to the accounts of history [19, 65]. The facts part of the film reveals the facts about the events including what has been known and what is not known. The film collects all the evidence that is relevant to the event and puts the accounts into one script for the viewer. To ensure that the scenes depicting the historical event are complete, the scriptwriter will look for any relevant evidence on anything that took place at that time. In such a research, the Feature film as a secondary source in historical learning 85 scriptwriter is likely to find information that was not recorded anywhere else. This brings up new evidence to the content of the film. The fiction part of the film is often developed on circumstances that are possible and relevant to the event. Such scenes bring into question the possibility that such an event happened but it was never recorded. It brings curiosity to the film hence requiring the audience to seek further information to either prove or disapprove the events. In the process, new evidence may be found that may support the fictional scenes or parts of the fiction. c. The feature films also bring to life past events [19, 65], because the feature films simulate events that have happened to the precision with which the events happened. This simulation involves bringing into being the circumstances and agents that led to the event into question. It also involves putting into place actors to represent people who took part in the event. The scenarios are developed as they have been described in various evidences and the geographic location of the filming is also developed to be similar to that in which the event took place. Such a scenario brings to life the historical events that took place in the past. Consequently, the students are able to understand the events in question better. For example, when films show the events leading to the Vietnam War such as the occupation of the communist leaders in the North may help explain the reasons as to why the Vietnam War took place. Films that show the events such as the civil actions against the Vietnam War in the United States, they explain the circumstances under which the United States soldiers were withdrawn from Vietnam (For example: Full Metal Jacket, Coming Home). d. The feature films provide insight into the experience and thoughts of people who experienced the war. The feature film creates scenarios of the events that happened in the past. It brings into being the circumstances that were facing the people who took part in the event where their experience is explained in the form of an act. This explains the experience and thoughts of those people who experienced the event. e. The feature films explain the significance of past events to the present events and their relationship. Past events have specific effects on the events that are taking place in the present. Events such as a war shape the economic, political and social position of the country that took part in it. It also shapes the foreign policies of that country and their international relationships with other countries. Feature films reflect the position of the country during or after the event by imitating possible causes and effects of the circumstances leading to the event and the event [4, 320]. A feature film that is developed along a plot on such events brings into being how these events interact leading to the country’s position both internally and externally. It summarises events affecting the country after the war and how they have put the country into the position the country is. It also helps understand the relationship the country is in with other countries in relationship past events. For example, the events leading to the Vietnam War, the events during the war and the events after the war have defined the relationship between America and other countries especially countries that were supporting South Vietnam and the countries that were supporting North Vietnam. f. Feature films also help to relate different accounts of history on a particular event [21, 13]. Events have different accounts that explain what happened. Each will define the situation from their points of view or from their own sources. They may give information that is similar or information that is varying. The feature films bring together accounts given by these different accounts to make a complete and well-analyzed account [20, 1]. They also add information that may have been left by the accounts and eliminate information that may not be correct or may be irrelevant to the historical records [22]. The fictional part of the film may also help in questioning the possibility of some events happening hence making people seek further information on the event [5, 723]. This may lead to Hoang Thi Nga and Maria Zakharova 86 further research that may reveal information that was not part of the original accounts ultimately leading to better and improved accounts. The fictional part may also help in suggesting other perspectives through which the past information cannot be viewed depending on the way the film has been presented. 2.3. Film as the secondary source: Limitations The secondary sources also have their own limitations which the feature films also carry. a. They are not fully objective [1, 751], because the secondary sources are developed entirely based on the ideas of the authors and their intentions for the film. The authors will evaluate the secondary sources depending on their own believes and understanding of the circumstance under which the source was developed and the event which the source gives an account about. The author will then give their own judgement on how well the primary source account for the event or the specific element of the event the author is researching on the secondary source [10].. Similarly, the feature film is developed on a plot that has been researched from other primary and secondary sources. The researchers will evaluate the information provided pass their understanding to the plot of the film. Such an understanding is based entirely on the judgement of the script writers rather than the true account of the original events that took place. b. Authenticity is a feature which states the validity, credibility and reliability of a source [9, 30,31]. Hans-Jürgen Pandel differentiates five different types of authenticity. Four of them can be applied for the film: - Fact authenticity: signifies that the historical event actually took place - Person authenticity: demands that persons in the film actually lived at this time and participated the way the movie shows - Type authenticity: is given when a character acts realistically for the time which the movie shows - Representation authenticity: the occasions should be exemplary, unfortunately films usually focus on outstanding characters and its actions [12]. c. “History is written by the victors.” (W. Churchill), therefor the objective of the primary source may not be the same as the objective of the secondary source. The primary sources are developed based on a particular intention the author intends to achieve [10]. There are historical sources that have been developed to depict a particular event in a particular way such as a very successful war or a futile war full of failures. The author will pass their own judgement on the event they are recording about and then record them according to how they feel the records will suit their objectives. When the secondary source author will write content driven from such sources, he/she will be depending on information that has been developed in a particular objective to write information that is intended on a different objective. If the two objectives conflicts, then the information being written about will not be relevant to the intention of the secondary source author. In a similar way, a scriptwriter who is depending on a particular source will have a film that is relevant to their objective if the sources they have relied on are developed on with a similar objective as the film. d. The secondary source has no control over the quality of the research [1,749]. The primary source is developed by an independent researcher who the secondary researcher does not control. Its quality also dependent on how effective researcher was during the the research. The primary researcher will also carry out the research to an extent to which he/she deems that the facts he/she wishes to give in the primary source have been achieved. Consequent