Watch a Witty, Gritty, Hardboiled Retelling of the Famous Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton Duel

Imagine Vice President Joe Biden being on the receiving end of a vociferous attack in the press by former Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner. Now, picture Biden demanding satisfaction, and taking the morning off from his vice presidential duties to settle things man-to-man, and Geithner winding up in a coma. As unbelievable as this episode may seem today, this kind of affair played out some 200 years ago on a much grander scale when Vice President Aaron Burr fatally shot Alexander Hamilton during a duel. The Burr-Hamilton confrontation remains an infamous black mark on American politics. Burr, serving as VP in Thomas Jefferson’s administration, is widely seen as a villain for murdering Hamilton. Hamilton, for his part, is beloved as one of the Founding Fathers and a vocal champion of the U.S. Constitution. For our non-American readers, this adulation translates to his face now gracing the $10 bill.

But were things really so simple? Dana O’Keefe, the filmmaker behind Aaron Burr, Part 2, answers with a resounding no. “History is a contest, not unlike a duel. I ended his life. But he ruined mine. I won the duel, but I lost my place in history,” Burr declares in the opening monologue of O’Keefe’s 8-minute short, and it is precisely Burr’s place in history that the film seeks to address. In O’Keefe’s modern retelling, Burr emerges as an unfairly maligned figure, whose bravery in battle has been overshadowed by the incompetence of superiors such as Generals George Washington and Richard Montgomery. It’s effective. Mixing archival footage of original documents with re-enactments and present day shots, O’Keefe creates a gritty, sometimes witty, hardboiled feel to Burr’s story, and viewers begin to sympathize with the disparaged figure. To the sounds of tracks like Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode” and some creative use of iPhones, O’Keefe dispels the idea that Burr shot Hamilton first. Rather, Burr is the honorable party, and Hamilton is the scoundrel. It’s well worth a watch.

via The Atlantic

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman, or read more of his writing at the Huffington Post.

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by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

  • ted mills

    Great mix of genres, fact and fiction, love this stuff.

    BTW, the music is “The Edge” by David Axelrod, *sampled* by Dr. Dre.

  • Ilia Blinderman

    Whoops, spot on – thanks for pointing that out!

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