Docu-drama takes a fresh approach to teaching American history.
By Grace D. Williamson
“We’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important…” Ronald Reagan stated in his 1989 Farewell Address. “If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result ultimately in the erosion of the American spirit.”
Filmmaker Tony Malanowski of Light A Candle Films strives to keep this American spirit intact. Having two children in school, he discovered a dearth of educational material that told America’s story from a positive, faith-based perspective. Drawing on the experience he gained working for major studios such as Walt Disney and Sony Pictures, he produced and directed The Battle of Bunker Hill. It is the first installment in a series of docu-dramas entitled America: Her People, Her Stories.
Historians William Chemerka, Richard Patterson, and Dr. Gregory Urwin appear at intervals throughout the film to share details surrounding the conflict at Bunker Hill. But The Battle of Bunker Hill is more than facts about people, places, and dates. It seeks to transport the viewer to 18th century New England and to communicate the faith, sacrifice, and heroism of the Colonists.
In a 60-minute presentation, The Battle of Bunker Hill follows the story of two fathers and two sons who, with their friends and neighbors, volunteer to defend the heights above Boston Harbor. A small militia’s decision to confront British troops becomes the first major military engagement of the Revolutionary War.
Malanowski teamed with colonial reenactors to ensure the historical accuracy of sets, props, and costumes. Battle scenes feature authentic canons and black powder muskets. A ship anchored in Boston harbor fires on colonial Minute Men. Ranks of scrupulously costumed Red Coats march across green fields.
The camera work is also impressive. Malanowski’s professional experience manifests itself in well thought-out frames and engaging photography. He capitalizes on the shakiness of hand-held cameras to create intensity in battle sequences.
It is difficult, however, for the viewer to forget that The Battle of Bunker Hill is an independent project. Occasionally strained acting serves as a reminder that there is ample room for improvement in the independent Christian film industry.
Still, The Battle of Bunker Hill’s message rings clear. It communicates a spirit of honor, patriotism, and pride. Unlike most media today, this docu-drama shamelessly acknowledges America’s Christian roots. “We want God back in His rightful place in the founding of our nation,” Tony Malanowski explains in the DVD’s bonus material. If we remember God’s place in our past, we might better uphold His rightful place in our present and our future.
The Battle of Bunker Hill is a useful resource for Christian homeschoolers of all ages. It provides a solid foundation for the remainder of Light A Candle Films’ series, America: Her People, Her Stories.