Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

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Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train
Directed byDeb Ellis
Denis Mueller
StarringDaniel Berrigan
Howard Zinn
Alice Walker
Narrated byMatt Damon
Music byRichard Martinez
Distributed byFirst Run Features
Release date
  • 2004 (2004)
Running time
78 minutes

Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train is a 2004 documentary film narrated by Matt Damon about the life and times of historian, activist and author Howard Zinn and his involvement in some of the most important social movements of the past fifty years. The film was directed by Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller. The film boasts a 97% fresh rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes.[1]

Between June and December, 2004 the film had a nationwide theatrical release, playing in over 50 cities across the country. In November 2004 the film was “short-listed” for an Academy Award, and in 2005 the film was released on DVD.

In 2008, the film was chosen by the Zinn Education Project (a collaboration of two national organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change) to be included in an education package sent to 4000 high school and junior high school teachers across the country.

In 2010, a new Commemorative DVD with an extra hour of bonus materials was released by First Run Features.

Film Critics on Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train:

  • “Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller’s tight and deceptively low-key documentary lets the subject eloquently speak for himself.” Lou Lumenick, New York Post
  • “A concise primer that should well satisfy those with a casual interest in his career.” Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter.
  • “A thinker and an educator, Zinn has led a life of commitment and compassion and the film offers a loving tribute.” Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
  • “Finally, a documentary about one of America’s most important academics.” Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle

Translation and International Distribution: Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train:

  • Germany, Fall 2007 Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral On A Moving Train - Eine amerikanische Lebensgeschichte, Published by Schwarzer Freitag, Berlin, Germany, 2007
  • Non puoi essere neutrale quando il treno si muove, Lumière Group Multimediale, Rome, Italy, 2008

Select list of festivals:

• Big Muddy Film Festival, Carbondale, IL, John Michael Memorial Award

• Rehoboth Beach Film Fest, November 2004, Best Documentary, Audience

• Festival internacional dell Nuevo cine latinoameicano (North American Showcase),

• Montreal International Human Rights Festival

• International Human Rights Film Festival, Paris

• Festoria International Film Festival, Portugal

• Palm Springs International Film Festival

• Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Missoula, MT

• Green Mountain Film Festival, Montpelier, VT

• Mountaintop Film Festival, Waitsfield, VT

• Vermont International Film Festival, Burlington, VT

Television Broadcast includes:

• Sundance Channel

• FreeSpeech TV 2008 – 2009

• Link TV - 2010

As a teacher, I’m not interested in just reproducing class after class of graduates who will get out, become successful, and take their obedient places in the slots that society has prepared for them. What me must do – whether we teach or write or make films. – is educate a new generation to do this very modest thing: change the world. Zinn, Howard. "Stories Hollywood Never Tells." The Sun #343 (July 2004): 12-15.


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