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DVD Review: Bill Moyers: In Search of the Constitution

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Bill Moyers: In Search of the Constitution is being released by Athena on February 15, 2011. Bill Moyers presents this documentary, which includes interviews with legal scholars, Supreme Court justices and ordinary citizens. It explores the history of the Constitution and American history, and examines the ways in which the Constitution affects our every day lives, as well as how it’s interpreted.

There are eleven episodes included on four different DVDs for a total of 627 minutes of in-depth discussion. Episode one “In the Beginning” presents historians discussing the Constitution and the values and assumptions of those who created it. Episode two “Mr. Justice Blackmun” features Associate Justice Blackmun discussing the manner in which the Constitution affects our lives daily in even the smallest ways. Episode three presents a philosophic discussion of the Constitution by Mortimer Adler during a class he taught at St. John’s College in Annapolis.

Episode four has Associate Justice Brennan explaining how the Supreme Court handles abstract ideas like dignity, privacy and cruel and unusual punishment. Episode five explains how the Constitution shapes public debate about things like AIDS, pornography and discrimination. Episode six was the most interesting to me and focuses on God and the Constitution through discussions with religious historians Martin E. Marty and Leonard Levy.

Episode seven discusses judicial restraint and the original intent of the Constitution. Episode eight features Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s first televised interview where she explains what makes a case challenging. Episode nine features every day people and the challenges they’ve gone through defending their personal freedoms of privacy, freedom of conscience and separation of church and state before the Supreme Court.

Episode ten discusses the constitutional implications of modern day challenges including workplace drug testing, computer privacy and executive power. Episode eleven features Associate Justice Lewis Powell, Jr. discussing some of his most controversial case involving executive privilege, corporal punishment and affirmative action.

Bonus features include a 16-page viewer’s guide with discussion questions, a glossary of Constitutional buzzwords and articles on how to preserve the Constitution. Also included is a history of the judicial review and the Constitution’s international influence. There are also updates on some of the people featured in the interviews and a biography of Bill Moyers.

This DVD contains tons of information. The whole thing is a series of interviews and is similar to other works he’s done for NBC, CBS and PBS in the past. Originally broadcast in the late 1980s, this series is updates the information in the original. It is interesting to contrast some of the provided original material with updates from different people in the documentary.

In Search of the Constitution did a great job of combining both the historical aspects of the Constitution and the current day-to- day issues it affects. This is a lot to take in all in one sitting. I found myself watching certain parts over and over to get a more thorough feel for what the people were saying and how it impacted life today. A must have for any history buff or anyone concerned with our rights and where they originated.

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About Ellen Christian

Ellen is a busy mom of two teenagers who left the corporate world in 2008 to focus on a more eco-friendly life. She lives in rural Vermont where she juggles family, two blogs and a career in social media. You can find her at http://www.confessionsofanover-workedmom.com/ and http://the-socialites-closet.blogspot.com/.