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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Politics > History > Biography > Educational > Leon Blum – For All Mankind + Howard Zinn – You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train: Special Commemorative Edition (First Run Features DVDs)

Leon Blum – For All Mankind + Howard Zinn – You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train: Special Commemorative Edition (First Run Features DVDs)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C/B     Documentary: B



First Run is back with two political documentary biography releases, one of which is an update of one of their most successful titles.  First is Léon Blum – For All Mankind, a 2010 hour-long look (this is the full length French version with permanent subtitles) at the little-discussed founder of what became known as the Popular Front (bringing Communists and Socialists together in 1936 France) as the clouds of fascism started forming over Europe.  He was a groundbreaking leader for worker’s rights and a key proponent of backing and inspiring The Resistance when the crude Vichy Government took over France as WWII entered its darkest period.


Corporations do not want anyone to remember him due to his success and the ideas he might inspire, even though he was Prime Minister of the country!  He was also sent to a few Nazi Concentration Camps and dealt head-on with anti-Semitism of the time which was extremely high, which the Nazis and their Axis friends took advantage of.  No matter his views, he was a hero and deserves to be remembered instead of being a footnote to history.  Director Jean Bodon’s research and new materials blend well with historic footage and stills, making this an all too short must-see for anyone interested in WWII or related subjects.


Howard Zinn – You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train (2004) is an enduring portrait of the writer and political activist who fought for Civil Rights and labor as much as Blum did and having passed away in 2010, First Run has reissued it with a few more extras as they have more Zinn footage to add; an hour more as it turns out.  Here was our coverage of the first DVD:





Matt Damon narrates and it is also worth visiting and revisiting.



The letterboxed 1.78 X 1 image on Blum and 1.33 on Zinn are about even as expected for documentaries produced mostly on older video formats.  Both are well edited and the reissue of the latter proves they could both be longer, but give us history that is vital to know, but is increasingly being ignored by even the best colleges.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound on each is simple stereo at best, but are fine for the programs without major audio issues.  Extras have already been covered for Zinn, leaving Blum offering stills and notes by Blum’s Grandson.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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