Aaron Burr, Part 2

An interesting short film has been making its way across the film circuits.  Aaron Burr, Part 2, is a 9 minute comedic film that purports to retell the story of Hamilton and Burr’s duel from Burr’s perspective.  Much like Gore Vidal’s Burr, the film is filled with inaccuracies, but I think it raises some interesting dialogue points.  I’d be curious to know what It’s Hamiltime readers think.

The Atlantic’s description states:

Complete with iPhones, battle reenactments, and a very snarky first person narration, this short film is a hilarious take on the event that tarnished Burr’s legacy. Aaron Bur, Part 2 comes from director Dana O’Keefe. The film has been showcased in film festivals across the country, including SXSW and the Dallas Film Festival where it received the Jury Prize for best short film.

Film School Rejects states:

Why Watch?Dana O’Keefe and company take up the task of humanizing Aaron Burr, an incredible figure whose memory has been reduced to one label: the man who killed Alexander Hamilton. In this unconventional take on history, Burr is a man out of time, sliding between his pre-Revolutionary days fighting in Canada and a modern day New York City where hip hop hugeness paints his larger-than life with every slow motion step.

It’s tough to say why this works. Maybe it’s because Burr appears here as a ghost kept alive by the people that remember him, foolishly trying to set the record straight while lamenting what time has done to the world he knew. Maybe it’s the hipper-than-thou attitude it carries. Maybe it’s because it’s the kind of comedy that keeps a straight face. Or maybe it’s just because it’s really damned cool.

Short of the Week writes:

The effect is brilliant. Reimagined as a brooding anti-hero, Burr (Alex Kliment) enchants. It’s a crazy comparison, but with the culture obsessed as it is, Burr reminds me of a vampire, a historical Lestat. Beautiful, dangerous, he haunts the modern lanscape, filled with regret, damned by an unforgivable act committed ages ago.

Mirroring the theme, if History is a contested narrative, the narrative of the film is a contest between its various styles. Amazingly the film has been programmed as both a fiction and documentary film, playing reputable venues like SXSW, HotDocs, and being nominated for the Cinema Eye Honors, as one of the best documentary shorts of the year. With its archival images and historical re-enactments, it shares elements of films in the Ken Burns mode, however its playful style is much more in line with modern American fiction directors like Wes Anderson in its dramatic use of music, slo-mo, and on-screen text.

You can watch the film on Vimeo here.

True/False Film Fest also had an interview with director Dana O’Keefe about the film.

2 thoughts on “Aaron Burr, Part 2

  1. Antonio Burr says:

    Mr. Nair, in your post of July 11, titled “Duelversary,” you comment that “two careers were ruined……….and Burr’s by humiliation and treason.”

    An an attorney you should be a bit more mindful of your words. Burr was acquitted of charges of treason in the famous trial of 1807 in Richmond, Virginia, presided by Justice Marshall. While you are entitled to characterize Burr as diminished by humiliation, he was found not guilty of treason. I think you should be more respectful of our jurisprudence regarding the guilty and those who have been found not guilty.

    Antonio Burr, Ph.D.
    Secretary Aaron Burr Association
    Trustee of the Morris Jumel Mansion, New York City

    1. Dear Dr. Burr,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment on my Duelversary post of July 11, 2013. I respectfully disagree with your points for a few reasons:

      (1) The fact that someone’s career is ruined by a crime (i.e. treason, murder, etc.) does not require that the person be actually convicted of the crime. For example, Levi Weeks (the defendant in the Manhattan Well Murder trial who Hamilton, Burr, and Brockholst Livingston helped get acquitted of the crime in 1800) had his New York career ruined by the murder of Elma Sands despite the fact that he was found not guilty.

      (2) In a criminal case, the determination of a judge or jury that a defendant is not guilty does not necessarily mean that the defendant did not commit the crime, but rather that the court or jury determined that the prosecution was unable to meet the burden of proof required for a conviction. See the definition of acquittal from the Legal Information Institute.

      (3) I am familiar with Justice Marshall’s opinion in the 1807 Virginia trial, in which Marshall narrowly interpreted the constitutional definition of treason and guided the jury to an acquittal verdict. Readers interested in finding more about the proceedings can review the Federal Judiciary Center’s materials here.

      [Ms.] Pooja Nair

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