News and Reviews
Striking, exhilarating... the performances are thrilling
The documentary... works beautifully... Each passionate reading flows out of the previous one.
So much of Mr. Zinn's career, reflected in his "People's History of the United States" book, has been about the struggle for social change... Some of the readings, like Ms. Tomei’s, are especially resonant now, given the perceptible anger in the country about banks and bailouts.
“That’s by design,” Mr. Damon said. “What they were up against oftentimes are exactly the same things we’re up against now.”
"This is the perfect format for a history lesson. You're getting the actual historical text verbatim, so there's no spin, performed by these great actors," Damon says. "History is intimidating. There's so much to know. If I could go back to college again, I would be a history major."
Springsteen taped at his ranch in New Jersey while Brolin was at work. "They ended up spending five or six hours. And I got this little card from Bruce Springsteen that said: 'Josh, thank you so much for making my childhood dream come true. I had the greatest day of my life.' I was very stoked," Brolin says.
Matt Damon is honored to be a part of the film. "I think it's important for all of us to learn at a young age that there are different perspectives on the same event," he explains.
Viggo Mortensen, who has been involved with the piece since it was a live performance, talks about what he learned from the project, saying, "It sounds trite, but it's the truth how powerful ordinary people getting together are."
"You're seeing actors read these incredibly dramatic passages in the history of our country, so it's not at all about, 'Oh, it's Sean Penn reading this,' " Damon says. "It's more like, 'Wow, this is Kevin Tillman talking.' Or it's David Strathairn, but he's now John Brown. These are all speeches and letters and diary entries and things that were actually said by regular people. That's what's so moving about it."
"He's been a constant source of hope and empowerment to so many," says Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, who first met Zinn in the 1990s and contributed a cover of Bob Dylan's song "Masters of War" to The People Speak. "He's taught me so much. Not just about what's in books and history, but also about how to live."