Cynthia Miller sends this report on the Dallas meeting in November where
the topic was "War in Film, TV, and History." More at www.filmandhistory.org
Dolce, with a Little Texas Spice
From start to finish, the recent Film and History League
conference was one of the most focused, yet diverse, events I've attended. I have to
admit at cringing a little when I heard that it would be held at a conference
center near the airport ... My inner child whined "But Peter, I've never been
to Texas! Does the airport even count?" "What about cowboys and culture and
Tex-Mex indigestion?" "Am I going to have to go down to the runway and watch
planes land for entertainment?" Thankfully, our fearless leader's sense of
venue was true to form, and never let me down. The Dolce Training and Conference
Center provided the best of all possible worlds -- a focused, expansive
setting in which to exchange ideas, within easy reach of absolutely everything the
Dallas/Fort Worth area had to offer (and then some!). In addition to taking
care of business, I was able to comfort that whining inner child with Steak
Ranchero in Deep Ellum, some time on the comfy spot of a horse, a vintage train
ride, and an evening with Willie Nelson.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... um ... the conference center ...
there were brilliant papers a-plenty! While Film and History presentations
are generally of higher quality and greater interest than I've experienced at
many other organizations' meetings, this round was particularly exceptional.
Perspectives were wide-ranging -- from graduate students to senior scholars, and
film practitioners to veterans. I was often torn between attending the
sessions I'd organized, and catching a presentation on some other facet of War in
Film, TV, and History. The choices were difficult and never-ending -- a credit
to all those who organized, scheduled, and presented. While the wide range of
sessions sometimes yielded smaller audiences, that artifact made for
wonderful, and often lengthy, exchanges of ideas after the presentations were
finished. Discussions were animated, collegial, and generated a great deal of
In many cases, these were the most productive and powerful aspects of
sessions, and I'm hopeful that future Film and History meetings will build even more
on those experiences.
Plenary speakers Lawrence Suid and Adrian Cronauer delivered
talks which sparked a great deal of hallway conversation (and beer conversation,
and pooltable conversation). Although Suid's book Guts and Glory, has enjoyed
a fairly recent new edition, the 1978 version has been on my shelf for years.
Suid's work on film and the image of the military in American culture is
every bit as relevant today as it was when that first edition was printed, as are
his observations about the ways in which the Vietnam War served as a pivotal
point for contemporary thoughts and images of war. Adrian Cronauer, whose
persona was portrayed in the film Good Morning, Vietnam, debunked his "man in the
movie" image, and offered sometimes humorous, sometimes glib, but deeply felt
commentary on the film and the War.
Merits of papers and plenaries aside, the Dolce Center proved to
be a wise choice, indeed. The grounds were lovely, the meeting rooms were
large and well-equipped (as was the fitness center), and even the food was a
couple of notches above the usual conference fare. Ample free internet access was
a tremendous bonus, as was the helpful Dolce staff, who were ever-ready with
maps and assistance of almost any sort. And with Susan Rollins' exceptional
patience and organizational talents keeping everything running smoothly, the
Rollins team clearly deserves thanks and praise for a conference well done.
Whatever the venue or location of the next Film and History League conference in
2006, it will be an event to which we can look forward!
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