MSRP: $24.99
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
  • None

The Pitch

The discovery of America and its effects, in documentary form

The Humans

Hosted by Ruben Martinez, written by Ruben Martinez and Carl Byker, directed by Carl Byker

The Nutshell

In fourteen-hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  Some time after that he landed in what would come to be called the Americas, and although that is still officially celebrated because it led to this country’s existence, it’s fairly widely accepted that it was not a 100% great event for all involved. This PBS special seeks to emphasize that last bit, and present a history of Europe and the New World before and after, as well as educate viewers about the positive and negative effects the “discovery” had on both cultures, and how they influenced each other.

The Lowdown

When Worlds Collide repeatedly states that it’s presenting a new perspective on the effects of Europe coming to the new world, but this version of the narrative has existed for at least a couple decades. Generally speaking, does anyone still believe the European explorers were justly conquering inferior, savage peoples? Is that still taught in schools? The film acts like it’s a novel idea that there was already a whole civilization with its own rich culture in place when Europeans arrived in the Americas in the late 1400s, but as far as I know that’s how most history textbooks portray it these days.

Sorry, I’m so bored I even spaced out while fast forwarding through for screen grabs. Here’s a pretty landscape in the meantime

But then, that’s sort of what this film feels like, a chapter from a high school history textbook, complete with sidebars and factoids about contemporary South and Central American culture. That’s not necessarily a knock, the film is well put together, but it’s exactly what you imagine when you think of stereotypical public television programming.

And I’m not suggesting you already know every tidbit of information presented in the film. There are little bits of trivia to learn throughout, but the underlying point is one that pretty much everyone has already gotten by now, despite the film acting like it’s some minor revelation. Of course, this is all coming from someone who’s already been through twelve years of public school and four years of college. The special would probably be useful to show to middle or high school students, although it’s very dry.

The discovery of the New World from the perspective of Europeans

Watching films like this totally takes me back to those days, though the fondness of the memory comes mostly from that moment you came into class and saw the TV or projector set up and knew that you’d be able to space out watching a movie rather than sit through a lecture and answering questions. I loved watching movies so much that I could lose myself in even the most boring educational films, so it was always a welcome change of pace from the drudgery of the average school day.  

So I encourage any history teachers reading this to consider showing this film in your class. Not because your students will find it particularly engaging, but because showing movies in class is always a welcome break from routine and they’ll like you more for it. And they might pick up a little knowledge along the way, provided they don’t fall asleep.

The discovery of the New World from the perspective of the natives

The Package

There are no special features, but the film looks pretty nice for a public television special.

4.0 out of 10