‘Untold stories’

Cinematic aesthetics, production details, and the filmmakers' decision to evoke Abraham Lincoln's human attributes and foibles frame this critical discussion of Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg's 2012 Lincoln. The authors assess the film in terms of its ‘truth status,' Natalie Zemon Davis's concept about the critical relationship between historical understanding and dramatic films about the past. The authors evaluate film critics', political commentators', and historians' diverse responses to Lincoln's depiction of the legislative process to pass the 13th Amendment to the US. Constitution and its overall portrait of the film's main character. Acknowledging the narrative constraints the filmmakers introduced into the film, the authors question whether Lincoln reflects the current state of scholarship about the era of slavery and emancipation and how the struggle for abolition and emancipation is depicted in the film. The article examines the consequences for how people, especially students, will use Lincoln to understand these important historical events in light of Spielberg's and his studio's commitment to donate DVDs of the film to every school in the USA.