Bad TV Beats Indie Film

by Anthony Kaufman
November 4, 2004 5:25 AM
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Like most of the indie film community, I was destroyed on Wednesday morning. It's taken me a full 24 hours to climb out of bed and I'm still feeling shattered, devastated by an unthinking mass of millions duped by the Rove propaganda machine. It was a victory of ignorance over intelligence, lies over hope, bad TV ads over the complexities and moral ambiguity embodied by what many filmmakers strive for in their art.

If I'm preaching to the choir, that's what we need to go back to in the days ahead. Many fought passionately and determinedly -- and we will need to do so again. Many took to the streets on the eve of the Republican National Convention in New York and screamed their hearts out, "No More Bush." Many sent emails. Some even knocked on doors and called strangers. And some actually made movies and documentaries that tried to show the masses that the world is not so easily depicted in black and white terms, notwithstanding the attempts of Michael Moore, of course.

It all feels so futile right now. In the face of 30-second scare tactics, libelous, outrageous attacks that play to people's base fears and a tabloid culture that celebrates the sound bite over the reasoned analysis, how could we expect to win? Even Moore, playing their game, didn't seem to sway the vote.

A friend of mine sent me an email, suggesting that before we can get a more socially-conscious and responsible President in power, we have to change the culture first. Changing a culture that celebrates "The Apprentice" and "Survivor" -- games of humiliation and materialism and Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest -- a culture of diabetes-causing fast food chains and chemical-spewing corporations (all duly attacked this year, but apparently not enough to do anything about it). It all seems like a noble goal, but I expect American culture to be unconquerable and lost for good.

If the gross mistakes, narrow-minded arrogance, and blatant disregard for humanity of the Bush Administration did not convince tens of millions of people that they need to change gears, then I doubt getting them to read a little more is going to help.

I'm not sure what we need to do, but I think it may have to involve playing on their base, mudslinging terms, a la Moore. Taking the high road didn't work for Kerry. When he took a silly jab at Bush, evoking "The Sopranos" in one of the debates, everyone lapped it up.

Pop culture always trumps high culture in the United States. Independent filmmakers live this truth every day.

On a more personal note, I am, indeed, looking to move to Canada. Maybe not this year, but perhaps next. I can't imagine raising a child in the United States right now and I don't know how I'm going to pay my taxes to this Administration next spring. If anyone knows of teaching positions or writing jobs in Toronto, please let me know.

This election was the straw that broke my back. My feelings today mirror the same feelings I had in the days following September 11, 2001: shock, sorrow, violation, betrayal, powerlessness, helplessness, fear, and fury. The Republican neocons have been trying to hijack New York's tragedy for their own political gains since September 12, but I'll bet they never expected many of us to link the terrorists attacks of 2001 and Bush's reelection of 2004 as two of the most dark and despairing days in our recent history.

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