See also: FILMS ON DEMOCRACY WORLDWIDE
FILMS ON DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA:
War on Whistleblowers:
Free Press and the National Security State
Documentary 2013 NR 1hr 6m. This documentary highlights four cases in which whistleblowers exposed government wrongdoing to the media and faced serious repercussions. Eye-opening, frank, and disturbing, this film is a must watch. This is a very good documentary and is a fraction of what is really going on in our government. The people of this country need to stand up and say NO MORE and start fighting for your rights before they are gone. See Full Review
Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election
Documentary 2002 UR 49 minutes. Filmmakers Joan Sekler and Richard Ray Perez rehash the dramatic events of the 2000 presidential election, exposing a chain of incidents they claim led up to the battle for the presidency in Florida and the undermining of democracy in America. Narrated by Peter Coyote, this revealing documentary examines an allegedly suspicious pattern of irregularities, injustices and voter purges — all in a state governed by the winning candidate’s brother. See Full Review
Granny D Goes to Washington
Documentary 2007 NR 26m. An 89-year-old idealist walks across the United States to demand that lawmakers reduce the role of special interest money in politics, focusing on campaign finance reform. This film is very inspiring…to see that someone cared enough about the United States and its people to walk across the country at the age of 89 putting her life at risk. The journey would be challenging to even the fittest of athletes yet Granny-D let the importance of her cause inspire her to keep moving in spite of her collapse in the heat of the desert. Campaign contributions are a bain to true democracy. Soft money contributions by corporations were undermining the ability of the people to self-govern. This film illustrates the power of one…one who has the determination to make a difference. Starting on January 1, 1999, she walked over 3,200 miles (5,100 km) across the continental United States to advocate for campaign finance reform. Haddock’s walk across the country followed a southern route and took more than a year to complete, starting on January 1, 1999, in southern California and ending in Washington, D.C., on February 29, 2000. She influenced people all across the U.S. as she walked, and when she arrived in Washington D.C. prominent politicians like John McCain were eager to talk with her and proud to see an American with such love for her country and the democratic process. Such acts are what the U.S. has been built upon. In 2004, she ran unsuccessfully as a Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Judd Gregg for the U.S. Senate. But in 2010 the Citizens United decision overturned the McCain-Feingold reform barring soft money. What a tragedy to see all your hard work over the last decade overturned in an instant. While Granny-D was successful in influencing campaign finance reform laws, in 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court changed the laws in favor of soft money proponents by giving corporations the ability to spend unlimited funds in our elections. The case: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. This action opened the flood gates and bad money is now buying influence with our members of Congress. Sadly, this law was passed January 21, 2010, almost 100 years to the day from Granny-D’s birth. Granny-D died March 9, 2010 — about 6 weeks after the Supreme Court decision at the age of 100 in Dublin, New Hampshire. The founders of the U.S. had the same enthusiasm, fortitude and dedication. Granny-D — hope you are proud, wherever you may be. Thank you!!
Documentary 2006 NR 92 minutes. In this award-winning indictment of the election process, guerilla journalist Ian Inaba follows the efforts of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney to expose disturbing tactics that systematically disenfranchise black voters and silence dissent. A passionate advocate for civil rights, McKinney calls on all citizens to question the political machinery and protect democracy from the institutionalized racism imperiling the country.See Full Review
The Architect of President George W. Bush’s Reelection
Documentary Frontline 2005 NR 60 minutes. The acclaimed, hard-hitting PBS show “Frontline” takes on Karl Rove, so to speak, in this insightful profile of the man dubbed the architect of President George W. Bush’s return to the White House. As chief adviser and strategist, Rove has been a controversial figure in Washington. Get to know the very private politico largely believed to be one of the most powerful men of the Republican party, and see how he made his way to the top of the political chain.
Bush Family Fortunes
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Documentary 2004 NR 61 minutes. This is a documentary by Greg Palast, a reporter and filmmaker who tailed the political clan, especially George W. Bush, from the highly contested 2000 presidential election win in Florida to the purported influence they exerted on behalf of the bin Ladens. Palast also treads on the same ground that the iconic Michael Moore covered, connecting the dots between the Bushes and the House of Saud.
The Best Government Money Can Buy?
Documentary 2009 NR 76 minutes. Just how influential are lobbyists? Francis Megahy writes and directs this absorbing documentary about lobbyists’ role in American politics, the far-reaching implications of their spending on elections and their threat to democracy. In addition to exploring case studies from several industries such as health care and energy, the film features insights from Capitol Hill insiders, former White House officials and more. See Full Review
By the People: The Election of Barack Obama
Documentary 2009 NR 116 minutes. Filmed during the historic 2008 presidential election campaign, this documentary goes behind the scenes to trace the journey of Barack Obama from his seat in the United States Senate to his inauguration as America’s first biracial president. Filmmakers Amy Rice and Alicia Sams offer candid footage of Obama and his aides from inside the campaign and also examine the fervent grassroots movement that helped propel Obama to the White House.
Home of the Brave
Documentary 2004 NR 1hr 14m. This documentary chronicles the murder of civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo, who was killed for participating in a march for black voting rights. Viola’s death helped pass the Voting Rights act of 1965. This is fascinating documentary about a forgotten woman in the civil rights movement, an amazing story that somehow got lost in time. Among the stories of Dr. King, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks, this story should be told. It reveals how intimately the FBI was involved in her murder, the coverup which followed it, and what happened to Ms. Liuzzo’s reputation at the hands of the FBI in the aftermath of her killing. Moving, inspiring, distressing, this movie unseats any vestige of trust in our government’s respect for human life and rights. Well-done documentary about people who were at ground zero of the civil rights movement. Bravo to all concerned that her heroism has seen the light of day! I believe this is something that can and should be shown to schoolchildren, a memorial to a woman who gave her life for what she believed in, and who should not be forgotten.
Big Sky, Big Money
Documentary Frontline 2012. A look at how the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ decision changed US campaigns. Focuses on Montana.
War Made Easy
Documentary 2007 NR 73 minutes. Based on Norman Solomon’s revealing book and narrated by actor Sean Penn, this documentary exposes the government’s and the media’s purported history of deceiving the American people and leading the nation into war after war. Using archival footage of past presidents and media correspondents — including the revered Walter Cronkite — the film sheds light on propaganda and draws parallels between the Vietnam and Iraq wars. See Full Review
An Unreasonable Man
Documentary 2006 NR 2hr 2m. Thought-provoking and revealing, this biographical documentary profiles the personal and professional life of Ralph Nader, one of America’s most controversial consumer advocates and political activists. Interviews and archival footage help illuminate the career of an influential public figure whose willingness to take on big industry, beginning with General Motors, earned him a reputation as both a hero of the working class, and eventually as a public pariah after the 2000 presidential election. See Full Review
The Billionaires’ Tea Party
Documentary 2010 NR 54 m. Filmmaker Taki Oldham imbeds himself in the Tea Party groups Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, revealing how corporations and the Koch Brothers engineered these fake grassroots called “Astroturf” organizations designed to look like organic grassroots movements.
The Oil Factor
Documentary 2005 NR 93 minutes. Despite official statements that U.S. wars in the Middle East and Central Asia are being waged in the name of terror, it’s hard to ignore that three-quarters of the world’s oil supply comes from these regions. Narrated by Edward Asner, this thought-provoking documentary explores the realities of the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and sheds light on the United States’ true motives. Featured experts include Noam Chomsky and author Ahmed Rashid. Even though it briefly talks about oil and its future, its primary focus is the war in Iraq/ Afghanistan. Its title is elusive because it focuses almost entirely on the causes/effects of war in those countries. It does not talk about oil enough and gives no strong history of oil in these countries as well as America. This doc. should be retitled to something along the lines of “the unspoken history of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.” This the is most important MUST SEE documentary ever! Everyone should see this. Very factual. Please tell all your friends to see this. See Full Review
The End of America
Lecture 2008 NR 74 minutes. Based on Naomi Wolf’s sobering best-seller, this documentary examines post-9/11 American freedom. Filmmakers Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern present evidence that our society’s liberty has been systematically eroded under the Bush administration. Their examples parallel the loss of liberty experienced in other countries as their governments tumbled into fascism, and draw chilling connections between what’s already happened and what is yet to come.
Docudrama 2010 PG-13 108 minutes. After her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn), writes op-ed columns accusing the Bush administration of misleading the public to justify invading Iraq, Valerie Plame Wilson’s (Naomi Watts) status as a covert CIA agent is leaked by administration officials. Based on events described in Plame Wilson’s memoir, this drama explores the political scandal that led to the conviction of Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
The American Ruling Class
Documentary 2005 NR 89 minutes. This inventive, mildly fictionalized documentary follows noted editor Lewis Lapham as he introduces two Ivy League graduates to America’s elite in an effort to examine the role of class and moneyed privilege in American democracy. With stops at the Pentagon, posh Manhattan parties and more, Lapham encounters luminaries — including James Baker III and Walter Cronkite — who each share their perspectives on America’s ruling class.
A Love Story
Documentary 2009 R 127 minutes. Filmmaker Michael Moore (Sicko, Fahrenheit 9/11) takes on capitalism’s roots, the floundering U.S. economy, and 2008’s global financial meltdown and subsequent bank bailout in this rousing documentary. Combining stories about those who suffer most from Corporate America’s greed and insatiable thirst for profits and the people most responsible for myriad crises, Moore embarks on another shocking fact-finding rampage.
Documentary 2007 PG-13 123 minutes. Michael Moore sets his sights on the plight of the uninsured in this Oscar-nominated documentary that uses Moore’s trademark humor and confrontational style to ask the difficult questions and get to the truth behind the health care crisis. In the world’s richest country, 45 million people have no health insurance, while HMOs grow in size and wealth. Moore also explores the widespread use of antidepressants and their possible link to violence.See Full Review
Documentary 2011 NR 68 minutes. Woody Harrelson hosts this exploration of the systemic ways in which modern society is self-destructing, from the disproportionate power of corporations, media and the military to the failure of government and democratic ideals.
Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 20m. With homeland security and the war on terror becoming increasingly important issues, the U.S. government has grown more and more secretive, allegedly to protect the country and save lives. But is this culture of secrets at odds with democracy? This documentary examines both the pros and cons of government concealment by focusing on classified secrets and the arguments the government makes in the name of national security. See Full Review
Battle in Seattle
Docudrama 2007 R 98 minutes. With the World Trade Organization about to convene in his city, Seattle’s Mayor Jim Tobin (Ray Liotta) tries to make sure all events go smoothly. As tensions between protestors and authorities rise out of control, activists and bystanders get caught in the crossfire. Stuart Townsend weaves a compelling story using the 3 Ps – Police, Protestors and Politicians. Based on the 1999 protest referred to as the “Battle of Seattle,” this drama features Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin, Connie Nielsen and Michelle Rodriguez. The stars play characters that are an amalgamation of a number of real people. The mayor of the city is trying to keep things calm, but finds his reasonable and non-violent approach to be ineffectual under the circumstances. With pressure from the governor of Washington State and from the White House, he is subjected to mounting stress to get the matter under control. The one thing that was shown properly was that the Seattle police, in the beginning, was ordered not make any arrests. That changed only when property damage and looting got out of control. If you believe that “peaceful” demonstrations in the streets are the way to get things changed in governments around the world, you will love this one because it’s pretty well done and includes actual footage of the real life melee. I wonder if the people deriding this movie as “liberal propaganda” understand that most of the riot footage was real and not recreated. Everything in this movie seems consistent with the news reports we were receiving and my own observations, and everything was pretty truthful to the photos we have in our album. As one of the protesters said toward the end: “A week ago nobody knew what the WTO was. Hell, they still don’t know what the WTO is — but at least they know it’s bad.” As to the WTO, all that rioting did nothing to change its course. From an historical perspective, I had no idea these things happened. This is a film to make one think. It is a serious film with a serious message. I was glued from beginning to end and highly recommend it.
Imperial Grand Strategy
Lecture 2006 NR 120 minutes. In two lectures and a 45-minute interview, intellectual and political activist Noam Chomsky — credited as the father of modern linguistics — delivers an unabashed criticism of the Bush administration’s record on terrorism, framing the president’s invasion of Iraq as part of an “imperial grand strategy.” Filmed in 2003, this collection of Chomsky’s personal views also provides an effective overview of the global political climate.
Noam Chomsky and the Media
Documentary 1992 NR 167 minutes. Funny and provocative, this 1992 documentary explores the political life and ideas of Noam Chomsky, a world-renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist. Chomsky illustrates how the media tacitly manipulates public opinion to further the agendas of the powerful. A compelling examination of the suppression of news about the U.S.-supported Indonesian invasion and subjugation of East Timor brings home the point. See Full Review
Documentary 2004 R 122 minutes. Michael Moore’s hard-hitting documentary addresses the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, outlining the reasons the United States (and, in turn, thousands of innocent Americans) became a target for hatred and terrorism. The film not only criticizes President George W. Bush’s response to the attacks but also reinforces Moore’s theory that the Bush Administration used the tragic event to push its own political agenda.See Full Review
You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train
Documentary 2004 NR 78 minutes. Matt Damon narrates this documentary chronicling Howard Zinn’s commitment to social change through archival materials, commentary from Zinn and interviews with contemporaries Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Tom Hayden and Alice Walker, among others. See Full Review
The Century of the Self
Documentary series 2002. Adam Curtis’ acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty. To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? “Century of the Self” tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests? The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund’s devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund’s great grandson, Matthew Freud. Sigmund Freud’s work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.
Episode One: Happiness Machines, Season 1 Episode 1, 58 min.
The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud’s ideas to manipulate the masses. He called it “engineering consent”. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires. Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticizing the motorcar. His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile. It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today’s world. Since propaganda was helpful in wartime, he believed similar mass persuasion could also be used in peacetime for different purposes. But the Germans in WWI had given the term “propaganda” a bad name, so Bernays came up with an new term for propaganda: “public relations”. One of his first clients was the tobacco industry, and his first achievement was a campaign that overcame the taboo against women smoking, and persuaded women to smoke cigarettes in public. He asked one of the new psychoanalysts what cigarettes mean to women, who said that cigarettes are a symbol of the penis and male sexual power, and if he could find a way to connect cigarettes with the idea of challenging male power, then women would smoke, because then they would have their own penis (as unbelievable as that sounds). So he arranged for debutantes to smoke during the Easter Parade in NYC, creating scandalous publicity, claiming they were suffragettes lighting up what he called “torches of freedom”.
Smoke in the Eye
Documentary Frontline 1996. Frontline investigates the war between network news and the tobacco industry in the wake of the $10 billion libel suit against ABC and the controversial decision by CBS not to allow 60 Minutes. to air an explosive interview with a tobacco company whistle-blower. As media companies increasingly come under the control of large corporations, will their newsrooms continue to aggressively report on corporate America?
Public Lands, Private Profits
Documentary Frontline 1994. Senator Dale Bumpers calls it ‘probably the most outrageous practice still going on in this country.’ He is referring to a federal law passed in 1872 that allows mining companies to extract billions of dollars in public minerals virtually for free. Frontline, in co-production with the Center for Investigative Reporting, examines the gold mining industry–which is in the midst of a boom bigger than the 1849 California gold rush–and the call for congressional reforms to halt environmental disasters and taxpayer giveaways. Correspondent Robert Krulwich surveys the impact of mining activities and focuses on the pitched political fight over control of mineral resources, like gold and silver, on public lands.
The Betrayal of Democracy
Documentary Frontline 1992. Journalist William Greider examines what he calls ‘the deepening divide between the governed and the governing’ in this PBS Election ’92 Report. Drawing upon Greider’s award-winning reporting and observations of Washington’s politics and government for over 20 years, Frontline examines the institutions of democracy – among them the two major political parties and the press – and how they are failing the public.
Spies of Mississippi
Documentary 2014 TV-PG 52m. In the 1960s, the state of Mississippi formed a secret agency that employed black spies to infiltrate and take down civil rights organizations. I had heard about the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, but I wasn’t aware it was anything on this scale. 160,000 pages, with insiders traveling all over the US to infiltrate. And then its involvement in the Cheney, Goodman, Schwermer murders. That said, this is an excellent documentary that should be shown in every school in America. Not just as a lesson on racism, but as a lesson about power, how power works, and how power corrupts. This is an important film.
Children of Internment
Documentary 2014 86 min. Thousands of German families were interned by the United States during World War 2. (It is a common misperception that only Japanese-Americans were interned during WW2.) This wartime internment of German-Americans remains generally unknown to most Americans — and largely overlooked by historians. Nearly 11,000 German “aliens” were interned and tens of thousands more suffered illegal searches and seizures, relocation, harassment, interrogation, family separation, deportation and repatriation to Germany. All immigrants to the USA are labelled “aliens” until they learn English and pass tests to become US “citizens”. Many immigrants after the end of World War One took the steps to become US “citizens”, but many others remained technically classified as “aliens”, perhaps too busy trying to earn a living to learn English and pass the citizenship tests. So this group of new Americans were technically still citizens of Germany, and these “aliens” unprotected by the US Constitution could be interned for no good reason. See Full Review
Documentary Ken Burns’ America 1985 NR 1hr 30m. The world of American politics has long been peopled with interesting characters — but few of them have been more colorful than Huey P. Long. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns captures the charisma that made Long the people’s politician, the “Kingfish.” This documentary explores Long’s life as a child, his ascent to power and his assassination in 1935.
All the King’s Men (1949)
Docudrama 1949 NR 110 minutes. Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) is a model politician — until he’s corrupted by the very system he tries to reform. Based on the cautionary Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards. It won Best Picture, as well as Best Actor and Actress for stars Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge (later the voice of the possessed Regan in The Exorcist). Stark’s character is based on Louisiana governor Huey Long.
All the King’s Men (2006)
Docudrama 2006 PG-13 128 minutes. Sean Penn stars as corrupt Southern politician Willie Stark — a charismatic man who wins the populist vote but, behind closed doors, is as underhanded as those he smeared — in this remake of an Oscar-winning 1949 film of the same name. Ex-reporter Jack Burden (Jude Law) unwittingly helps Stark gain political power, but it’s just a matter of time before the governor’s crooked dealings are exposed.
See also: FILMS ON DEMOCRACY WORLDWIDE
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