Monday, January 23, 2017

From The Ground Up

Frontline has a documentary called "Divided States of America" on the Obama presidency. They cover the 2009-2010 period and the rise of the Tea Party unevenly. They spend a lot of time talking about racism and the birther movement. Both of those are real things, although I don’t think they warrant as much time as the PBS documentary does.

"Divided States of America" mostly interviews Democrats. The Republicans who got the most screen time were former Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. While those two can provide something valuable about the 2009-2016 period the film covers, a large part of this era is about the anti-establishment sentiment. The people who opposed insiders like those two were ignored in the film. There's very little insight into the Tea Party.

In "Divided States of America" the Republicans look unreasonable, ridiculous, and people who have no real motivation for doing what they do other than spite. There’s an occasional quote from a Tea Party congressman, but mostly just a line that reinforces something. When they want a Republican point of view they have Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin yelling and complaining on their radio shows. The audio they throw in often could be these two reacting to anything and they don’t actually make an argument for anything. They do sprinkle a handful of Sarah Palin quotes from speeches.

After working on it for years, I’m finally finishing my documentary, now called "From The Ground Up." It covers the 2009-2010 period but from a very different perspective. In fact, the only person I interviewed who is interviewed in their documentary was Eric Cantor and none of my Cantor interview made my cut. There are several events we both cover but often from different perspectives.

"From The Ground Up" explores the 2009-2010 period as the origin of the angry voter. Most of the first two thirds of the film is told from the perspective of the people who founded the Tea Parties and volunteered with the Tea Parties. Most of you will have never heard of any of these people and what they did in 2009-2010. There’s praise and criticism but mostly the film is told in their own words. The Scott Brown, Rand Paul, and Trey Gowdy stories are all told from the perspective of people who volunteered. They are undoubtedly presenting only one point of view but one that needs to get told.

The last third of the film centers on the candidates. Most of the candidates weren’t very well known at the time and aren’t very well known now. Their stories haven’t been told either. In some cases I do have candidates telling their own story, because that’s an important perspective too.

Not one person I interviewed ever mentioned Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin. Four people do mention Sarah Palin, although they don’t mention anything she said or did but mostly it’s, “Sarah Palin came to one event we had.” None of those three are in "From The Ground up." That’s not to say they didn’t say or do things during this period that impacted people. I interviewed Paul Ryan for the film and none of that interview is in there either.

We are putting the finishing touches on the film now and I plan to share the film with audiences this year. I don’t know when yet. Stay tuned.

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