What We Want Is Peace!: The Fight For Peace

Presented by Al Maysles

Hendrik Willem Van Loon (1938), 70 min.

This film presents a simple historical account of the First World War and introduces the major players in the Second. The dramatic voiceover and “storybook” format make this seem a little ridiculous for modern viewers. However, it is valuable because it demonstrates the sort of bias that is present during the 1930s due to the fear of Stalinist communism. This documentary does not provide any new information for anyone who has studied the two wars, but what it does give is a sense of what was considered a documentary during this time of fear.

What We Want Is Peace!: All Quiet on the Western Front

Presented by Al Maysles

Dir. Lewis Milestone, 1930, 133 min.

Based on the novel by German author Erich Maria Remarque, the film follows a group of German schoolboys, talked into enlisting at the beginning of World War 1 by their jingoistic teacher. The story is told entirely through the experiences of the young German recruits and highlights the tragedy of war through the eyes of individuals. As the boys witness death and mutilation all around them, any preconceptions about "the enemy" and the "rights and wrongs" of the conflict disappear, leaving them angry and bewildered. This is highlighted in the scene where Paul mortally wounds a French soldier and then weeps bitterly as he fights to save his life while trapped in a shell crater with the body. The film is not about heroism but about drudgery and futility and the gulf between the concept of war and the actuality.