Sunday, April 10, 2011

Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton

I have a feeling that this new documentary on Alexander Hamilton will either be a hit or a disaster:

A series of scenes attempt to place Hamilton in a modern context. In St. Croix, where Hamilton’s mother was jailed for “whoring,” Brookhiser chats with a group of female inmates who articulate, firsthand, the shame her illegitimate son likely felt and how it might have fueled his aggressive, honor-bound nature. In a session of the People’s Court, Judge Marilyn Milian presides over a re-creation (complete with actors in period dress) of Rutgers v. Waddington—the legal case, argued and won by Hamilton, that helped set an early precedent for the doctrine of judicial review. On a sloop heading down the Hudson River—the same setting in which Hamilton penned the first of the Federalist papers, arguing for ratification of the Constitution—Brookhiser, with the aid of a calligrapher, searches the author’s handwriting for clues to his prolific mind. The film also brings Hamilton’s famous feud and deadly duel with Aaron Burr back to life. In Baltimore, Brookhiser discusses matters of honor with gang members before taking to the Hudson again (chaperoned by another Hamiltonian creation, the U.S. Coast Guard) to reenact the duel itself with descendants of Burr and Hamilton standing in for their respective ancestors.

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