AFI Movie Club: HAMILTON – American Film Institute



Audiences at home could at long last feel as if they were in “the room where it happened,” when creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking and record-breaking Broadway blockbuster, HAMILTON, finally made its spectacular screen debut this past summer.

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HAMILTON – Reelgood

Watch Debra Messing introduce the film:

Movie Trivia about TODAY’S FILM

DID YOU KNOW? One of the first pilot performances of the music that would become HAMILTON was at a 2009 event at the White House celebrating “An Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word.” Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda had been invited to perform a song from his Tony® award-winning IN THE HEIGHTS, but instead introduced one, “about the life of someone who embodies hip-hop: Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.”

DID YOU KNOW? Defying classification even in its infancy, HAMILTON began as a collection of songs its creator referred to as “The Hamilton Mixtape” – a sampling of which Lin-Manuel Miranda performed for an American Songbook concert at Lincoln Center in 2012. The New York Times review of the event asked at the time, “Is ‘The Hamilton Mixtape’ a future Broadway musical? A concept album? A multimedia extravaganza in search of a platform? Does it even matter? What it is, is hot.”

DID YOU KNOW? In developing HAMILTON, creator Lin-Manuel Miranda sought to create a work true to historical fact, saying that he wanted “historians to take this seriously.” To that end, he recruited Ron Chernow – author of 2004’s award-winning biography, “Alexander Hamilton,” to serve as a historical consultant on the production.

DID YOU KNOW? At the 70th Annual Tony® Awards in 2016, the stage production of “Hamilton” received a record-breaking 16 nominations across 13 categories – ultimately winning 11 awards, including Best Musical. It also received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that year.

DID YOU KNOW? While not uncommon for Broadway productions to be filmed, it’s typically more for archival purposes. Conversely, HAMILTON is that rare exception of a play that wasn’t filmed for historical documentation that has benefited considerably from a larger-than-life, thoughtfully choreographed film treatment.

DID YOU KNOW? The filmed version of HAMILTON was shot over the course of only three days in 2016 – two complete matinee performances in front of full houses, and a third day for the cameras to get up onto the stage with the cast in order to pick up the more intimate shots that couldn’t be captured from the audience.

DID YOU KNOW? According to director Thomas Kail, HAMILTON was shot using nine cameras – including six operators in the audience and three fixed cameras. Those captured the first filmed performance in its entirety, and then were repositioned for a second complete performance. On the cast’s ostensible day off, Kail reconvened everyone for additional Steadicam, crane and dolly close-ups of select scenes and numbers.

DID YOU KNOW? Around the time that the performances were filmed, creator Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted that he had “no idea” what they were going to do with the footage. After the first rough cut had been put together, he and director Thomas Kail shopped it around Hollywood – but ultimately turned down all initial offers, as the Broadway production was still going strong and they didn’t want to steal focus from the ongoing live performances.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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-In what ways did Alexander Hamilton’s tragic childhood inform the man he would become?

-How did Alexander Hamilton’s ambition serve him well, and how did it work against him?

-How familiar were you with the story of Alexander Hamilton prior to his breakout treatment in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pop culture phenomenon? Did HAMILTON make you want to learn more about America’s founding fathers?

-How does HAMILTON bring history to life in ways that a more traditional biography might not? Do you think it’s an effective treatment?

-Why do you think Lin-Manuel Miranda chose to cast actors of different races unlike their real-life counterparts? What effect does that have? What are the pros and cons in presenting historical figures in this way?

-Why is it so important to be in “The Room Where it Happened?” What does that mean to you?

-What does the song “Who Live, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” mean to you? Why do you think it is so important who tells a story – particularly with regard to important historical figures and events? How does it apply to Alexander Hamilton, the man – and how does it apply to HAMILTON, the show?

-How do you balance Alexander Hamilton’s extraordinary deeds against his human flaws, more than 200 years after the death of the man himself? How do you reconcile the imperfect people behind history with the events – and effects – of the actions of history?

-In what ways does HAMILTON reflect our modern day? Which of its foundational discussions and debates are still relevant to America in the 21st century? How are HAMILTON’s characters similar to or different from the public figures of today?

-How would you rate HAMILTON?

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