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Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 14:08 GMT


Talking Point


Should facts get in the way of a good film? Your reaction

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Non-fiction should be as factual as is possible. If that script makes it to film I'll not spend a dime on it. Unless of course they change the nationality of the leading roles, supporting roles, extras and all of the props.
Jon, USA

The wholesale changing of facts is wrong. People tend to believe what they see on their television and movie screens. To give them a distorted and even wrong sense of what really happened is not a good thing. If people cannot believe that a movie 'based on a true story' is the least bit factual, then why should they continue to believe that other products put out by Hollywood are just movies? If a movie has a ring of truth to it, like the Enigma movie, then maybe movies such as 'Men in Black' are equally true.
M Pfundstein, USA

Look what Shakespeare has done to our view of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. Even now historians are unsure of what really happened and we may never really know. With the power of the media today to distort and manipulate the facts to suit national and political viewpoints, it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall (documenatry maker?) in five hundred years time as future historians try to understand 20th century events.
Neil Castle, UK

I feel that facts give the idea for a film. But time after time we see American films depicting how great and wonderful the Yanks are. I've lost count of the number of US films that end with US flags waving. This only drills home how I think the Americans think of themselves. How big can their heads get?
Gary Robson, UK

If it is just an American mainstream movie it should be taken as such. It seems like a lot of the arguments are against American domination of foreign cultures to which their is only one answer - stop consuming it all and support your own country's film, music and literature.
Ian Newman, Australia

A good story is essential to a movie but blatant disregard for the facts is not acceptable, as some people tend to take the movies at face value. They believe that all they see is the truth. Do have some licence but do not totally disregard the truth.
Sean Percy, Germany

I think the idea of such a grossly distorted film sullies the memory of those involved in the Enigma project. It's not just because the protagonists are portrayed by Americans but that it will deny the role of the great mathematician, Alan Turing, who is much admired in the US. "Based on fact" is intellectually bankrupt.
Diana Gordon, USA

Hollywood is very much like the tabloids that cannot sell enough papers. It has resorted to distorting the truth in order to sell its films to the public. Long gone are the days of good story material. The trash that is coming out of the movie industry is as bad and as talentless as ever in history. Accuracy has been forgotten for want of more money and greed on the part of producers. Men and women who will plagiarise and steal material from others in order to get ideas. Producers who only care about money and are self-indulgent creatures of comfort with huge egos. What a mess!
Dave Adams, USA

Films are forms of art. Art requires high drama which is not found in everyday life. Unfortunately, Americans are not the brightest people and tend to think of films as real history. European films are quality films but American are just darn more exciting.
Carlo Ariani, USA

If 65% or so of everybody is so annoyed at the "Americanization" of history in the movies, why then do American films earn hundreds of millions of dollars in the foreign market, especially in Western Europe? I think that people should put their money where their mouth is and stop seeing films that bastardise history. Otherwise, stop complaining and acting so principled.
Matthew Hillson, United States

Hmmm, I would hate to create a roadblock to artistic creativity, but the fact remains that most people, primarily the youth of today, tend to believe what they see - especially once a film is touted as being based on facts. Many people tend to remember the action of a FILM and will remember those sequence of events they witnessed as opposed to what they remember from history books or newspaper articles. Then again, why can't Hollywood make the truth just as interesting as their creative versions?
Evelyn Mielcarek, USA

Whether we like it or not TV, films and videos are, and will continue to be the main method by which many people gather "facts" and "knowledge". The idea of getting a history book out and having a good read just either does not occur to them or it is too much like hard work. Under these circumstances if a film claims to be factual or represent an historical event the story and characters should represent that facts as close as possible. After all, do we want history re-written?
Paul, UK

I only go to about two movies a year, as I long ago realised they lied about history. The movie "Elizabeth" is a good example. A wonderful, well-crafted love story ... nothing of the grim reality of smallpox, which must have had a devastating effect on the Queen. It is unfortunate, but Hollywood gets very little of my support and usually only for "art" films and smaller productions. I prefer my histories to ring true.
Karl Stratman, USA

Hollywood is doing a great dishonour to the brave men who fought and died to help save their countries. I personally don't understand why they do things like this, for me a film loses all credibility when I know that it is so blatantly inaccurate.
Stan Sarama, USA

When you consider the amount of money the industry spends on these films, I think a little poetic licence in order to secure a box office hit is entirely justified.
Simon Ridgewell, UK

There's an irony in all this that people are missing. Americans are almost obsessive about getting things perfectly correct when talking about their own history. Films about American history often come complete with claims about armies of "authenticity experts" who ensure that everything in the film, down to the title of the last play Abe Lincoln saw, or what shirt he was wearing, are absolutely correct. It's only when 'other' peoples' history is concerned that Hollywood feels it can falsify the facts. Of course, now they'll go and prove me wrong by making a film in which Lincoln is assassinated by an Englishman.
Jon Livesey, USA

As an American living in Sheffield, I personally feel as if British people are using a lot of excuses to attack Americans...be it our film industry, or our international relations which are so "skewed" by your standards. I am sick of having to justify the existence of my country, and its role as defender of the free world. Yes, we are arrogant, but it seems no more than the British.
Mark Ghazal, UK

Basically a film is, after all, only entertainment. However, I do think those portraying important events in history ie real events during the Second World War, or in fact any depiction of history should be based on fact. The Americans have got so many things wrong in reality, that it really isn't surprising that they feel it necessary to engineer fact into fiction, whilst making themselves look good. It is, quite simply, the American way. Poetic licence is necessary to a certain extent to ensure entertainment, but blatant fiction in what should be fact based films, surely detracts from the quality of the movie.
Peter Olohan, USA

Imagine if Americans wrote history books like they make movies. Every honourable and noble person would be American, the rest would either be from some middle eastern country, speak with an accent or have a limp. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Churchill, Jesus - they'd all be American. We have to get used to the fact that they have huge cultural influences because of the success of their entertainment industry. When someone finally competes with them they will be able to show that Davy Crocket was Spanish!
Darryl Hunt, Zimbabwe

Great theatre often makes lousy history - Shakespeare is only the most blatant example. Nonetheless, films that deal with historical subjects should attempt to be true to verifiable history. Where the history is clouded, of course, reasonable conjecture can make for interesting drama (Shakespeare in Love comes to mind).
Stuart Friedman, US

Typical 'God Bless America' cobblers!
Gary Edgerton, UK

Hollywood is already stretching if not breaking the facts to conform their scripts to the dictates of political correctness (cf Amistad). If the trend continues, we'll eventually have the ancient Romans driving about in Buicks.
Mike Lofgren, USA

Hollywood has always altered history to make movies. Britain has always tended to be extremely rigid where film storytelling goes. I think that a happy medium does exist. If only the Americans would stick nearer the truth their movies wouldn't be quite so awful and if British filmmakers, such as those alleged entertainers Ken Loach, the late Derek Jarman and the rest, would only remember that an audience does in fact exist the British film industry may have a hope of survival.
Jeremy, USA

It is plagiarism of facts. Surely just as the story line is fiction based on facts then an event could have been invented. What would Hollywood's reaction be if the Far Eastern film makers made films depicting the Chinese taking the part of cowboys?
Mel Crosby, Australia

As the educational standard is so low, especially here in California, and as the youth of today are such good movie goers, maybe we could help solve one problem by being accurate with our facts. Subliminal education is good.
BMB, USA

After working as an Army hospital nurse in the American Civil War Walt Whitman wrote, "the real war never gets into the history books." Nothing in real life gets into the history books - nor onto the screen. It's impossible. Storytellers have always fudged the facts in order to package history into a good story. Shakespeare begged pardon with his audience for it in "Henry V."
TJ. Cassidy, U S.A

Unless the film is a documentary, I think the film can take liberty with the facts if the story line justifies it.
Debbie Hall, USA

Filmmaker should stick to the facts if it is a proven history. He may do some make-ups on certain characters to make the movie more appealling, but not the history.
Hank Liaw, Taiwan

...and the war ended when the British dropped an atom bomb on Berlin.
Craig Carlyle Clarke, USA

Fact is often stranger than fiction, and portraying things as they actually where only gives a story extra value.
Andy Grogan, Holland

I think this is disgusting. As a 25 year old it really annoys me to think that the Americans are still trying to take credit for major accomplishments of others 50+ years after the event. The problem is, is that when these sorts of films are seen by teenagers, both now and in the future, they are believed to be factual. They are not willing to read the truth about such events, as it is so much easier to sit and watch it on a T.V. or in a cinema, thus diluting history. This completely dishonours the memory of so many British Servicemen and women, who died to give my generation a safer place to live. I wish more people between 15 and 40 felt this way, and were as proud as I am of those achievements.
Leigh Brookes, UK

Get a grip, folks! It's just a movie.
Shane Russell, California

I voted that facts should not get in the way of a good film, for films, like novels and plays, are selective representations of reality, and artistic licence is a necessary part of the genre. Nonetheless, when a film company completely distorts history this is no longer artistic licence but propaganda.
Alex Moseley, UK

Film is an art form so I see no reason why facts should get in the way. It's important that filmmakers make it clear that their movie is not factual but as long as they do that nobody should be fooled. The whole point of a good film is that it's entertaining and believable. The fact that its not true is irrelevant. Most of the films that purport to be true stories have various elements that are not true. This is borne out by the director's disclaimers in the end credits. JFK is a perfect example. A superb film but factually incorrect. This is dramatic license and only a fool believes everything they see or read.
Andy Pope, England

If a degree of exaggeration is necessary to make the film more viewable - so be it. But one has to draw the line at distorting basic historical facts. Hollywood filmmakers should leave the re-writing and distortion of history to Goebbels and his ilk.
Anton Shelupanov, UK

In the fifties, Britain made a pretty awful film about an Englishman being the first man to break the sound barrier. According to his autobiography, Chuck Yeager wasn't too upset about this, though the American Air Force was, and I think with good reason. Nobody denies that America was the first nation to achieve powered flight, or to put a man on the moon. To make a film about a specific event and claim (or show - what's the difference) it was Americans when it wasn't seems to be a lack of common courtesy, or is that too to go out the window in the name of the Profit?
Graham Bell, Brazil

One of the most annoying things about watching a film supposedly based on fact is discovering inaccuracies in the details used. This has happened time and time again with many films - for example, did William Wallace really father the future King of England, as was implied in Braveheart? Artistic license is one thing, severely distorting history is something else.
Mike Lynch, UK

As long as the film is clearly advertised as a totally fictionalised account of the base story, I can not see a problem. Here it is the subject matter, war, which promotes such deep feelings. The true story should be highlighted in the film's promotion.
Dan, A Brit in the USA

As someone who usually treats Hollywood History with the pinch of salt it deserves, I am surprised to find myself actually quite offended by this latest distortion. We increasingly perceive history not through dusty books but popular fiction, and it is one thing for Britain's role in WW2 to be marginalised in US popular culture (as the US is in ours) but to claim the credit for something they had nothing to do with is, frankly, insulting. Perhaps we should become as protective of our history as the French are of their language.
Nick, England

There is no reason "good" films can't stick to the facts.
Michael Hoover, USA

Frankly, I think its wrong for Hollywood to credit Americans for breaking the enigma code. But all nations are prone to distorting history for the sake of fostering national pride. I wonder if the American role in WWII is minimised when British schoolchildren learn about England's great victory over Germany.
Evan.S, USA

It is disgraceful that historic events should be altered in order to create a blockbuster film. A lot of people suffered and put country before themselves and they should be recognised for this fact.
Toby Rogers, Italy

If a film is given a title/uses names that implies a link with an historical event, then the film should consist of the facts. However, if there is no reference to real-life events, then I feel it is perfectly OK for a film to be produced that is 'based on real events' .
Sarah, England

There's fact, fiction and a new genre: American Fictional Facts. What is the use of history if we distort it? What if one day someone makes a film with the Americans liberating London from the Nazis? Or the Americans winning the Vietnam war? Or Hiroshima being an accident in a nuclear lab? This frightens me. Why can Americans not live with their past, good and bad parts of it, and accept that they are not the best thing since sliced bread?
Mike Tonkin, France

A Film is a story being told from someone's viewpoint. If the project is being funded by American Dollars won't it be stupid of them to make the heros in the movie a bunch of Brits hacking away at Bletchley Park? If British film makers feel strongly enough about this, they should raise money to make a film telling their own version of the story. If it was called a documentary then you'd expect for it to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If Titanic told the story as it happened for real would as many people go to see it or buy the video? I think not.
Steve, UK

I suppose we should not be surprised. But a whole generation of people will grow up thinking the Americans won the war single-handed. In fact, the first enigma machine was captured in 1941 - rather before the US reluctantly joined in the hostilities.
Gerald Flyle, UK

Why are we surprised that the Americans have grossly distorted the truth in this movie? This is continually done in Hollywood movies. These movie moguls have no respect for the past or the truth. As far as they are concerned America is everything. To them it is all about making as much money as possible. This film will probably give the impression that American single handily won the war. Hollywood movies such as these always portray America as big brother protector here to save the world from ourselves and the aliens e.g. Independance Day, Men in Black etc. The irony is though that we complain about it but we'll all go and watch these films and make them more money.
Joanne Patterson, The Netherlands

They should, but unfortunately they don't. Look at "Titanic" for a recent example, with several glaring inaccuracies. I firmly believe if the Americans want to make a film about Enigma, they should change the name of the device to something else, because, without doubt, people do believe what they see on the screen. Here in Oz there have been a number of war films showing the Yanks and/or Brits in a bad light, and Australian kids, including former Prime Ministers, believe this rubbish. Let's have truth.
Ray Marsh, Australia

The Americans seem to think that it is only right for them to twist movies around so that they are the heroes. Of course hyper-intelligent American children believe everything on screen. Wait, pretty soon we'll discover that Jesus was an American and that the 3 Wise Men were American Scientists and that the Inn Keeper was some kind person from New Hampshire. Give us a little truth.
Darryl Hunt, Zimbabwe

With the statement in the intro "this film is based on a true story" I think anyone has a right to manipulate the story in any way they choose as long they include another statement, something similar to "but it has been changed in a few ways to the discretion of the script writer and not to be taken as complete fact".
Quintin Fick, Zimbabwe

I believe that the most interesting part of this particular situation is that Hollywood will not even look at a script in which any foreigner might be conceived as having more of a clue than their American counterpart. Foreigners in these films are either the enemy or the sidekick and there are strict editorial scripting rules dictating just that. The American nation has made selective memory a national pastime.
Melinda Mac Donald, Czech Republic

One does get weary of the entertainment industries propensity to write or re-write history. They tend toward arrogance.
Dr. E. Carl Hepola, U.S.A.

I think there is also a danger that actual historic events will turn into 'Urban Myths' if the Hollywood version of the story become the accepted account of events. I think this is because movies are much more mainstream and 'user friendly' than the history books. Therefore some people are more likely to accept what they have seen rather than just read (if they have read anything at all!). Saying that though, I take all 'true' movies with a big pinch of salt and wonder how it really happened. This is not the first time Hollywood has done this, after all we all know that America won the second world war for us ;-) And I am sure it will not be the last!
Simon Greig, UK

History is not to be manipulated by movie makers.
Costas Gatos , Greece

Most people's views of history come from the popular media. If you start distorting history knowingly where is it likely to end? Perhaps future generations will come to the conclusion that the Jewish holocaust never in fact happened.
Tegid Edwards, Wales

I have just heard about the plan for a film where the Americans again try to make themselves look good at the expense of others, and I'm disgusted. The events of Bletchley Park were one of Britain's finest hours, and now millions of Americans will grow up believing that it was them who put in all the hard work and expertise. Quite frankly, if the Americans are so desperate that they have nothing of their own to be proud of, I feel sorry for them.
Caroline Edwards, United Kingdom

Private Ryan was always a dramatic portrayal of events that effected the Americans. The rescue mission was not necessarily true, although it might be. This new film portraying Americans seizing the Enigma machine - a major turning point in WW2. This is blatant Nationalism by Hollywood, in America's Favour.
Andrew Walker, England

If a story is fiction then it can say whatever the makers wish, it can be a complete fantasy. If it purports to be fact or based upon fact there is an ethical obligation upon the makers to ensure absolute accuracy to the best of their ability. Anything else is pure deceit and dishonesty.
Michael Girvan, Malaysia

It is impossible to create a dramatically effective film based solely on fact. We British are just as capable of distorting history to artistic ends. The question is much simpler. Is it a good film because of the distortion?
Robert Sanders, UK

The sheer exposure that Hollywood movies get is tremendous. Artistic license is understandable to a point, and that is the Director's call, but they should stick to the basic facts. The example above is just a gross distortion of the facts. It's understandable that the Americans would want to use American characters in their movie but it doesn't do the British Navy or the British personnel involved in the original mission any justice.
Nabarun Hazarika, UK

If a film is based on an historical event then I believe that the makers have a responsibility to adhere as closely to documented history as possible. There's mountains of room for artistic licence with the script and characterisation probably. Adhering to the facts should be treated seriously especially when dealing with sensitive issues like WWII where many people are likely to be offended if details are wrong. Hollywood has, I agree, shown the world that it is unscrupulous, unethical and shameless about how it quite deliberately alters history to make a film more appealing to the American film market. It's easy to get away with there because they are ignorant about world affairs.
Gus McGhee, Germany

Insulting? Definitely. Surprising? Not at all. The further away we travel from these events the more freedom the Yanks will have to re-write history in their favour. Next stop, the USA joining the war in 1939 and rallying the appeasing Brits into action.
Neil Halliday, England

I wouldn't mind seeing the film if it had the usual disclaimer that all events depicted in the film are completely fictional. You could even have a trailer documentary beforehand describing the true events, or at least advertising a book that tells the true story. The real lie is that people are told the film is true. If everyone knew it was just a pack of lies it would be easier to take.
Kevin, England

There aren't that many war films that show anyone apart from the Brits, Americans or Europeans. It's not surprising that it's not well known how many citizens of former colonies served and died in the wars. The English Patient is the only war movie I can think of, for example, that showed an Indian soldier.
Vikram Rao, England

Artistic licence will always be around, but I think that you have to draw the line at a reasonable point. This would be where the lies or distortion of the facts are so gross that any reasonable person would start to feel very uncomfortable at the blatant re-writing of history. Crude but opposite examples would be the Battle of Britain being won by the USAF rather than the RAF; Pearl Harbour being a strike by Germany rather than Japan; The second World War being started by the French and so on. Does the American film about the breaking of the Enigma code go to that extreme? That will always be a matter of opinion but for what it is worth I think that The British authorities and ex-servicemen and women who were involved have every right to very annoyed. My suggestion would be that they should all ensure that considerable publicity is given to their grievance...the Americans will take notice and some, but only some, of them may realise that they are watching a dreadful distortion of the truth!
Kevin Exell, England.

Film makers should make 'true life' films true to facts. Changing facts or missing out facts is like changing history for our generation. I am 21 years old. I studied history, I know about the history about WW1 and WW2. When you watch war films made by America, you get the impresion that they did it alone. It is insulting, and if we are not careful, the generations to come are going to grow up thinking they owe their freedom to Americans, and not their own forefathers who fought and died for us. Newspapers are not allowed to distort facts, if they do they are sued for it. So why can film directors get away with it. It is very insensitive, especially when the subject is of war. I do not want my Grandparents history brushed aside and forgotten. Films are a record in time. 'Zulu' helped me in school.The BBCs 'Rhodes' told me things about this country and Africa history I did not even know until I watched it. You can learn a great deal from films, and T.V. Why don't they make films so that people can learn about the past.
Jean Shaw, England.

Some artistic freedom should be given to the writers, basing an entire story on lies and then saying "based on actual events" should not be allowed.
Aimee Joswiak, USA

While I am willing to accept a small amount of distortion, the "Disneyfication" of history to fit a film can only be detrimental to the facts. This is a particular problem when people first learn of the events via movies. Children (and adults too, sadly) start to think of the movie portrayal as the factual truth, and that hides the real truth. The problem is figuring out where the line is.
Tom Klancer, United States.

Listen, if you want the truth do a documentary, which I happen to enjoy. If you want entertainment do a movie. where artistic license prevails. If you expect the whole truth and nothing but the truth from an entertainment media, forget it. What you can do is refuse to may the price of admission.
George C Thomas, Hawaii.

Films based on true stories should be as historically accurate as possible. Otherwise ignorance is bred through a false understanding of historical events. The breaking of the ENIGMA code was a prestigious British technological triumph, as should be portrayed as such.
Dr Lyndon Smith, Pennsylvania, USA.





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