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Stonebreakers 2022

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Grasshopper Film, 12 East 32nd St., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016
Produced by Isaak J. Liptzin and Curtis Caesar John
Directed by Valerio Ciriaci
Streaming, 70 mins

High School - General Adult
Race Relations; Social Problems; U.S. History

Date Entered: 02/20/2024

Reviewed by Russell A. Hall, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Penn State Erie

Stonebreakers examines the conflicts and reasoning behind monument removals across the United States in the years following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in May 2020. From Virginia to Arizona; Connecticut to South Dakota; and in many other locations across the country, the filmmakers show a wide array of clashing opinions on what these monuments mean to different groups of Americans. Examples of sites shown in the film include statues of Christopher Columbus and Robert E. Lee, Plymouth Rock, as well as folk monuments to those migrants who died trying to cross the desert from Mexico into the United States.

The film is most effective when it compares Mount Rushmore to the memorial of the massacre at Wounded Knee. Mount Rushmore is titanic is size and is kept in pristine condition. It an entire tourist industry dedicated to the mythology of the Old West and the “taming” of the frontier. Elsewhere in South Dakota, the memorial to the Native Americans massacred at Wounded Knee by the U.S. Army is small and ill-kempt. This striking contrast drives home how mainstream American culture literally elevates some historical narratives while minimizing others.

Stonebreakers is an excellent film. It would be exceptionally useful for courses that engage in discussions of contested narratives of history, questions of how we decide what is worthy of public memorials and monuments, and the continuing legacy of slavery in the United States.

Audience Award, Festival dei Popoli, 2022; Best Documentary Feature, Workers Unite! Film Festival, 2023; Best Independent Production Documentary, History Film Festival

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.