Understanding the American experience, for me, means listening to a ever-widening set of voices. I recently sat down and watch three very different approaches of telling stories about the American way. I highly recommend all three films, they are all 5 out of 5 stars in my opinion — but be advised that the last one, a comedy routine, does have content and language some may find offensive.
The Brainwashing of My Dad
In this independent film shot by Jen Senko, Senko seeks to understand what transformed her mostly apolitical ‘Kennedy Democrat’ father into an angry, Right-Wing radical. What she uncovers along the way are the people and movements behind more than a 40 year effort to move the country further to the Right. Although it could fall under a ‘kooky conspiracy’ theory-type film, the skill of Senko is she is not interested in some conspiracy theory, but rather is seeking to understand her father’s transformation. This means she interviews experts that understand how the media — whether liberal or conservative — works.
The movie does focus a lot of attention on Fox News and talk radio celebrities like Rush Limbaugh because those were two heavy influences in her father’s transformation. She even includes a clip where Limbaugh poses the question as guest on a TV show: Do I believe what I say — you decide. The scene reminds me of David Letterman telling Bill O’Reilly that O’Reilly, Limbaugh and Glenn Beck were all too smart to believe what they said.
If you are interested in how America became so angry, ‘Brainwashing’ is a great place to begin.
Brothers on the Line
Large swaths of American Labor history go relatively unknown by the public at large and such is the case with the Reuther brothers, three men, largely forgotten despite their huge impact on the lives of millions of American workers. in this documentary, narrated by Martin Sheen, the story of Walter, Roy and Victor Reuther tells how the trio organized, united and improve the quality of life for many Americans through their work with the United Auto Workers union. In their lifetime they helped make it one of the most powerful unions of all times.
But as the film reveals it did not come without a high price. Two of the brothers were victims of violence as unknown assailants attempted to murder them. The violence, though, only seemed to strength their resolve. Their story is one of perseverance, conviction, hard work and the belief that every American deserves a fair shake. The film is available on Netflix, Amazon and other online sites.
David Cross: Making America Great Again!
Actor David Cross, probably best known for his role as Tobias Fünke in the sitcom Arrested Development, filmed a stand-up comedy routine at a Texas venue which was released on Netflix. As the title implies, the set is political and he discusses many of the asinine comments and beliefs that have besieged America in this presidential election cycle. His cerebral approach to the country’s failures on gun violence, racism, and the political process will not appeal to everyone. In fact, many will be offended when he theorizes why God allows our children to be murdered in mass shootings, but what he repeatedly and effectively does is shine a bright light on our collective hypocrisy.
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