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Reviews

Praise for John Sayles and Amigo

In Amigo John Sayles has rendered the birth of the United States’ overseas empire in an exceptionally discerning and intimate social portrait.  The film never settles for polemics or for flat melodrama, although the historical record of the Philippine-American War surely suggests these narrative modes above others.  Nor is this a big deal epic of the sort that Hollywood has taught us to expect from our war films, even from our anti-war films.  Rather, Amigo is an understated, poignant, deeply human canvas of one baryo in the crossfire of empire and resistance, and of a ragtag but lethal detachment of U.S. soldiers who find themselves halfway around the world walking point for their country’s new imperialist policy.  The film is textured by a rare combination of complex compassion and unwavering moral clarity—an immense achievement of both cinematic craft and historical imagination.  Though most often considered a “minor” adventure in the annals of U.S. empire (when considered at all), Americans’ first land war in Asia in 1899 crucially links the Plains Wars of the nineteenth century with Vietnam in the twentieth and Iraq in the twenty-first.  By insisting upon its remembrance, Amigo asks us to ponder and to weigh all that national arrogance has authorized, and all that democracy has failed to mean.

 –Matthew Frye Jacobson, Professor of American Studies and History, Yale University, author of Barbarian Virtues:  The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917

Amigo is a well-carpentered narrative, fast-moving and emphatic, stepping nimbly from gravity to good humor.  Mr. Sayles dramatizes those contradictions with wit and concision, and with determined fair-mindedness as well as outrage…All in all, he is a pretty good history teacher, the kind who knows how to make even difficult lessons entertaining and relevant.”
A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“John Sayles is one of the most important public historians of our generation.”
–William Cronon, President of the American Historical Association

“An important aspect of Sayles’ work is a marked sensitivity to reviving a sense of American historicism-especially of the vitality of American working-class history in a way that is dramatic, involving and non-preacherly.”
Nora Ruth Roberts, Solidarity

 

Praise for A Moment in the Sun

“With its political intrigue, fraught romances and life-threatening adventures, Sayles’s vast historical novel recalls both Harriet Beecher Stowe and Thomas Pynchon. The book opens in 1897, during the Klondike gold rush, and closes in 1903, the year after the Philippine-American War ended. In between, Sayles takes the measure of America from the perspectives of Western ramblers, war profiteers, black soldiers and Filipino insurgents.”

Ishan Taylor, The New York Times Paperback Row

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