Saturday, February 2, 2013

On DVD: Better-late-than-never award to Barbara-Anne Steegmuller's SUPERPOWER

One can be forgiven for finding SUPERPOWER, the documentary that has won a number of smaller festival awards, a bit like a trip around a block you know rather well and have made several times before. Appearing only now on DVD, with no theatrical release, this two-hour film was first seen back in 2008 (and was probably in the making at least a year or more prior to that). And yet the film -- which begins by tackling the USA's foreign policy over the decades and demonstrating how fake this was in terms of bringing democracy to almost anyone; goes on to survey our wartime experience, with particular attention paid to the two wars begun under the regime of George W. Bush; then turns its view purely to this new millennium and our use of torture and "rendition,"  while showing how globalization fits snugly into the goals of our government, the IMF and World Bank; before coming down hardest of all on the infamous Patriot Act -- seems as important now as it probably did five years ago. Perhaps even more so when you consider how little change has occurred or what has really been done to undo the injustices -- monetary, social and political -- of the sleazy and criminal Bush regime. (The section on the Patriot Act is good enough and important enough to be expanded into a documentary all its own.)

Put together as a lengthy (the film is two hours long but almost never boring, even when you already know what's being said) series of talking heads and accompanying visuals by a first-time filmmaker named Barbara-Anne Steegmuller, shown at right, the movie will quickly seem un-American to those viewers who insist upon holding our country aloft as the world's prime example of democracy and justice. But for those who have really looked at what has happened over decades (since the Reagan administration) and especially since 9/11, the movie will seem like a crash course in the truth. Beginning and ending with words from President Eisenhower, the documentary speaks to and through several generations.

Speakers range from the always thoughtful and on-point Karen Kwiatkowski (below) to Noam Chomsky (above), the late Chalmers Johnson and Jeff Jones. At one point, piecing together the connections between Halliburton, Dick Cheney, politicians and lack of oversight, you will be reminded perhaps of the dismal way in which the foxy SEC has overseen the hen-houses of Wall Street and the banking industry. "That's real treason," notes a speaker at one point in the film, and it will be for difficult for many viewers to disagree. Notes another: The U.S. has become "an institutionalized war economy directed by corporate executives in collusion with the military." Again, disagreement? Doubtful. President Eisenhower has turned over in his grave so many times by this point, we're surprised he's still in it.

"Lies upon lies upon lies are told. And none of them are discredited until after the fact."  This statement is made about our entry into the Iraq war, but it holds just as true for much that has happened since and is still going on. So many subjects are brought to the fore -- collusion, racketeering, a brainwashed U.S. public, conspiracy theories regarding 9/11 as a "false flag" attack (the movie comes a little too close to this one, before backing a bit away) -- that the plate is full to overflowing, with a bit too much to digest, even given the two-hour running time. And the organization here could be better, too: Suddenly we're back again to oil as the reason for overthrowing dictators, a subject broached much earlier on.

Overall, though, what's here is worth hearing (yet again) and seeing, from the perspective of Ms Steegmuller. As one of the speakers explains succinctly: "When Americans realize the difference between what their government says and what it does, they will begin to turn."  We saw the beginning of a turn with the election of Obama, but that has not worked out as well as many of his supporters would have wanted. Hence the Occupy movements worldwide, the continuing Arab spring, and many of the grassroots groups that have sprung up here and abroad.

What with the worldwide web so accessible and secrets of all kinds so much harder to keep (thank you, Mr. Assange), all we can do, I suppose, is keep pushing and hope this "turn" will take its course. (And not turn back in the other direction.) Superpower becomes available on DVD and VOD platforms this Tuesday, February 5, from Cinema Libre Studio. Check it out for another angry and depressing walk down memory lane --- but one that might make you even more determined to enact some real change.

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