Review: The thought-provoking documentary ‘CIVIL WAR (OR, WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE)’ tackles the whitewashing of history. It airs tonight on MSNBC at 10 pm ET!


Urgent and complex, Civil War (or, Who Do We Think We Are) travels across the United States, exploring how Americans tell the story of their Civil War. Filmed from the last year of Obama’s presidency through the present, it interweaves insightful scenes and touching interviews filmed North and South, painting a uniquely crafted, multi-faceted portrait of the American psyche and the deep roots of its turbulent times. With delicacy and strength, subtlety and determination, Civil War lays bare a nation in denial, haunted by an embittered past and the stories it refuses to tell.

Filmmaker Rachel Boynton holds a mirror up to the tumultuous realities that have haunted us since the Civil War. In the very opening of the documentary, she explains that depending on where you grow up reveals a regional version of history’s truth. Anger, fear, and ignorance have turned this country upside down, and it sure didn’t start in 2016. People’s beliefs are just as strong today as they were in 1865.

The documentary features interviews with students, high school teachers, professors, and folks with familial ties to the Confederacy. The variety of lessons is fascinating. I think I learned more in this one hour and forty minutes than in my entire life about the Civil War and Reconstruction, not only from the teachers but the students’ curiosity and critical thinking moments. The role of white supremacy is so much broader than I ever imagined, including the North. No one is off the hook, and that’s the reality. Boynton takes the approach of challenging her subjects from behind the camera. You can often hear her asking them, “But, why?” in some form or fashion. It’s a smartly used device that gets the viewer to continue to absorb each perspective.

The timing of this film comes when white parents are losing their minds over Critical Race Theory when most of them haven’t a clue what that encompasses. Whitewashing history is not just wrong, it is dangerous. The repeated thematic question in Civil War is, “Who is controlling the narrative?” That’s what struck me as the most thought-provoking in the end. We know who’s controlling the narrative. Take a step back for a moment to examine who owns the papers, major news networks, social media, and what color is their skin? I am the mother of a four and five-year-old. I want to make damn sure that they’re told the truth in their schools. I demand their history books contain black stories written by black historians. It does my children no good to be fed sugarcoated versions of how our country came to be at this moment in time. The Civil War never really ended. It’s still about economics, heritage, fear, and yes slavery, in 2021. Once you accept that as fact, you can begin to repair the narrative.

is now streaming on PeakockTV and
will air at 10 pm ET tonight on MSNBC



About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.

Leave a Reply