Unlike the other entries in the “Instant Expert” series, this quick guide to The Mayflower starts out with a lengthy re-enactment and even a title page that gives away its origin as a different film: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower. Although when compared to its fellow films (Instant Expert: The Story of Oil, Instant Expert: Ben Franklin) it contains a similar documentary outline of narration, expert interviews and re-enactments, the extensive period piece re-enactments (complete with accents and awkward sentence structure) weigh heavily on this piece, distracting from the historical recounting and the factual presentation of information.
Based mostly on the writings of Pilgrim William Bradford, this story begins in England in 1607 and spans the persecution of religious Separatists in England, their trip to The Netherlands, and ultimately, their travels to the New World (which basically seems to begin as a call to a massive mission trip).
When the documentary reaches the discussion of the original settlement in North America and the Pilgrim’s interactions with its native people (including Squanto) it improves significantly, but the re-enactments are still too overdone and melodramatic to properly disseminate historical information. Phrases like “This is what thou intendest?!” ultimately kill the non-fictional mood that the History Channel no doubt is hoping to present.
There are Extended Activities and Discussion Questions included in the DVD insert that should help anyone attempting to use this video as a teaching tool.
Zach’s Rating: C+
Perfect For: Mayflower fans who happen to love re-enactments
Stay Away if: You’re looking for a documentary on the Mayflower, not a poor docudrama
To purchase Instant Expert: The Mayflower, visit Amazon