Wednesday, May 15, 2013

BIDDER 70: The Gages' very necessary documentary about civil disobedience

What can a single person do to halt the encroaching rule by corporations in collusion with government? Plenty, as shown in the new documentary, BIDDER 70. Back in 2008, when President G.W. Bush tried to "gift" the energy and mining industries with thousands of acres of Utah wilderness via a much-disputed federal auction, a college student named Tim DeChristopher, on the spur of the moment, decided to try to stop this. Attending the auction as a protester, he suddenly bid $1.7 million (which of course he did not have) and effectively threw a monkey wrench into the proceedings -- which were, in any case, illegal.

When the Obama administration took over the following year, the "sale" did not go forward, but the prosecution of Mr DeChristopher did. (Obama and his minions have shown themselves to be anything but progressive on behalf of civil disobedience and/or whistle blowers.) The minor and relatively short (73 minutes) documentary made about this important event by prodcers/
directors Beth Gage and George Gage (shown at left, with Beth credited for writing) tells the tale at hand and some of the back story in cursory fashion but is still quite important because it brings the story to our attention and in the process forces us to understand what a single act of civil disobedience can accomplish.

Via the Gages' film, Tim DeChristopher (shown above, center, and below via a courtroom sketch) proves a bright, thoughtful and very brave young man whom American progressives have to thank for his intelligence and sacrifice. He ended up serving two years in prison for his action. This is somewhat of a spoiler, and I am sorry for it because the Gages attempt to milk as much suspense as possible out of the outcome of  the much-delayed trial (it took ten scheduled dates before the case actually went to court) -- even though that trial is long over and, in fact, the theatrical release of their documentary has been scheduled to celebrate DeChristopher's release from prison just last month.

In the course of the film we meet DeChristopher, his mom and brother, and see a glimpse of what the "mountaintop removal" that the mining companies are doing actually looks like and what this does to our mountains. We also learn how important it is to have a decent and fair judge on the bench (there are less and less of these in our current times). DeChristopher's judge allows nothing that might help his defense to be told to the jury. Here, the rule of law seems more like a gag order.

In the course of the film, you'll come to see Tim as a real American hero (a moniker he would undoubtedly deny) and his trial as something akin to the Soviet show trials of the century past (or to the recent Pussy Riot trial in Moscow, the documentary about which is soon to be released and will be covered here) where judges simply follow the dictates of their rulers. All the government delays, however, had an unintended result: Tim's cause grew in attention and support, as the young man founds the organization Peaceful Uprising and garners support from Nobel Prize-Winner Terry Root and environmentalist/celebrity Robert Redford (both of whom appear in the film).

His cause brings forth the likes of the photos above and below, national press attention and marches on the White House. The film even offers a little humor. As he prepares breakfast on the day of his sentencing, "I probably should have done the ketchup before I got dressed," Tim opines. The statement he makes post-sentencing is both smart and moving. This kid puts to shame those of us who email our congressmen, make phone calls, speak and write.  He put his words into action. We should be grateful--and learn from him.

Bidder 70, from First Run Features, opens this Friday, May 17, in New York City (at the Quad Cinema), and in Auburn ,New York at the Auburn Public Theater. On May 22 it hits Oakland, California, at the New Parkway theater, then comes to Los Angeles on June 7 at Laemmle's Music Hall.

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