Professor highlights academic woes in ‘The Historian’


Caption:  “The Historian” writer, director, producer and actor Miles Doleac. The film was shot in Mississippi, mainly around the Hattiesburg area and on USM’s campus. The film will appear at the Grand 18 Theatre Friday, Nov. 7. Photo by Abby Smith

In his directorial debut, Southern Miss history professor Miles Doleac will release his independent feature film “The Historian” on Friday at the Grand 18 Theatre in Hattiesburg.

According to IMDb, the film follows a young history professor with a troubled past as he seeks to begin a new life at a new university. In his new job he struggles against an equally troubled department chair, the challenging politics of academia and the apathy of his students along with the added intrigue of new, intimate relationships that change the way he views the world.

The film stars many recognizable artists such as William Sadler, John Cullum and Colin Cunningham. Miles Doleac also appears as Ben Rhodes, the protagonist and leading man.

The movie was filmed on location in the summer of 2013 in many Hattiesburg locales with a large portion being shot on the campus of The University of Southern Mississippi. Many students were involved in the filming process as extras and technical crew such as production assistants.

Roland Hutto, a senior marine biology major, worked as an extra on the production and said he enjoyed seeing the technical elements come to life.

“The whole experience was like watching a movie from the other side of the screen,” he said. “I imagine when I go to see it I’ll be watching with a much different perspective from other movies I’ve seen.”

According to Historia Films’ Facebook page, the film has competed at several festivals, including Sun and Sand Film Festival, Soho International Film Festival and Long Island International Film Expo. At LIIIFE, the film won three awards including Best Actor (William Sadler), Best Supporting Actor (John Cullum) and Best First Feature (Miles Doleac).

Doleac said he chose to film the movie in Hattiesburg because of his connection to the town. He was born and raised in Hattiesburg and wished to give back to the town and put it on the map for potential future films.

“It was important to stake my claim here and to help build a creative economy in the state of Mississippi,” he said. “Look at the creative minds that this soil has spawned. There’s something special here in the ground.”

“The Historian” addresses not only the emotions of the characters, but also what Doleac considers to be an overarching set of problems in academia. Doleac said he based a lot of the action on his experiences as a graduate student at Tulane University as well as his first experiences as a professor of history at Southern Miss.

“I’ve witnessed a disturbing trend in higher education,” he said. “There’s what I call the ‘dumbing-down’ of the classical education model.”

He went on to explain that previously there was a holistic approach to education that contained a thorough knowledge of history, philosophy, rhetoric, grammar and other skills that crafted not only a good student, but a better person. This change mutated and grew toward an emphasis on the “financial bottom line,” to a point where the humanities lost some of their importance to
modern-day administrators.

“As teachers, we increasingly feel like we no longer have the resources or the ability to mold more socially aware human beings,” he said.

This frustration drives Doleac’s character, Ben Rhodes, as well as William Sadler’s character Valerian Hadley, a disillusioned history department chair dealing with taking care of his father with acute Alzheimer’s at home.

“He sees the fact the he is not beholden to a budget committee,” Doleac said of Hadley. “He sees that he does not have the resources or the backing to be the humanities teacher that he feels it is his right and duty to be. And how would he react? I think he would be angry.”

Doleac addresses these issues and more in “The Historian,” which is set to have its cinematic premiere at the Hattiesburg Grand 18 Theatre on Friday, where it will have a red-carpet opening at the 7 p.m. show, with appearances from the stars and questions answered after the showing of the film.

For more information on the future of “The Historian,” look up film’s Facebook page or visit the page of Historia Films, the production company behind it all.