Saturday, February 25, 2012

HEIST and PATRIOCRACY: Two new political docs open at NYCs Quad Cinema

This coming week is all politics at New York City's Quad Cinema, where three new political-themed documentaries will open on Friday, March 2 -- one of them about art and revolution (which I'll cover in the next few days), the other two (covered below) concerned with what's been going over the past few years and continues today. One of these attempts a bipartisan look at the nasty tone of our current political discourse, the other takes a gander at how the "business community" -- read the international corporate world -- has hijacked our country and our lives. Both are worth seeing, even if they cover a lot of territory already trod by other documentaries.

The better of the two docs -- HEIST, which in its very title should remind you of the film that won last year's Best Documentary "Oscar," Inside Job -- takes as its jumping-off point a memorandum written decades ago by Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (who later became a Justice of the Supreme Court), in which he described/proposed a strategy for the corporate takeover of America's dominant public institutions. This memorandum was new to TrustMovies, and I found it more than a little interesting, almost shocking in its relevance to what has happened over the past forty years since the memo was written (in August of 1971).  The movie does not scream nor yell and, in fact, it finds, in it own bipartisan manner, that regimes both Republican (from Nixon and Reagan through Bushes I and II) and Democratic (Carter, Clinton and now Obama) kowtowing to money and corporate power. In a most interesting moment of truth, even Paul Craig Roberts, co-founder of the ridiculous "Reaganomics," notes that we now have "an economy that is starting to impoverish its own work force."

The film's co-directors -- Donald Goldmacher (below, left) and Frances Causey (at right) point to the media deregulation as one large threat to democracy, along with the big lobbyists and their corporate agenda. They point to the utter lack of accountability in our leadership and suggest taking private money out of public elections as a good start. (Good luck!) They also suggest acting locally, and offer a positive example of a community -- Richmond, California -- that went up against the Chevron corporation and won.
The movie is smart, fast, and neither petty nor smug. While you may know some of what the filmmakers have to tell you going in (restore fair taxation, and make Wall Street play by the rules!), you're bound to have learned some new things coming out. Bonus treat: two good pieces of music/lyrics played over the end credits: The Corporate Welfare Song and Never Surrender.


It's commendable that filmmaker Brian Malone (shown below) -- he directed, edited, composed and co-produced PATRIOCRACY, the second of the three political docs that hit the Quad this coming week -- wants to put back some civility into our political discourse. It doesn't hurt to be reminded of how uncivil the airways and print media (not to mention what can be found on the worldwide web) have become over the past decade. "How did we get to this level of vitriol and refusal to compromise in our government," Malone asks. Well, I'd say that it's pretty easy to figure out how. A decade of being lied to outright by our highest elected officials, even as more and more transparency in government is sacrificed to the power and wealth of corporations and to that less-than-one-per-cent of our population who now "owns" America. Lack of civility is the least of what we should be worrying about. It is the unethical, dishonest and criminal behavior of our government, including the still-befouled majority of the Supreme Court, that has spawned the Occupy Wall Street movement. More than two centuries ago, the situation of all the wealth in the hands of the few, leaving the rest of society with ever less to live on, helped spawn the French Revolution, because of which the ruling class lost its collective and individual heads.

Civility is all very well when the leadership is playing a civil game. We're past that point when President Obama spends more time, money and effort going after whistle-blowers than bringing to justice Wall Street and the banking community, or holding accoun-table the previous administration for its many crimes. If there is not much that's really new here, still, within the framework Malone has given his film, he comes up with some very interesting provocations. One such is the ex-politician (a Republican) from South Carolina who tells his constituents that if Glen Beck scares them so much (as they've just informed him), why not simply turn the guy off. After which, he loses his primary election. Malone also covers the despicable Supreme Court Citizen's United decision, the Gaby Gifford shooting, the debt ceiling deadline, and best of all, he lets retired Southern politican Mickey Edwards, hold forth with a bunch of good ideas for mending our fraying country. The filmmaker closes with a decent laundry list of ways to correct the situation and organizations dedicated to doing this. But without a clampdown on political campaign contributions, all this is barely a band-aid. And with Citizen's United now at work, what new horrors lie ahead?

See these two interesting docs (each runs 90 minutes) starting Friday, March 2, at New York City's Quad Cinema. Click the link ahead to find for further playdates for Heist. To locate further Patriocracy playdates, click here and then click on Screenings at the top of the page.

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