Today’s look at Sundance 2013’s US Documentary Competition wraps up with returning filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin: CITIZEN KOCH, a bracing analysis of the political consequences of corporate personhood.
Sundance Program Description:
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 lifted a century-long ban on restricted corporate election spending, unleashing a new era of unbridled special-interest campaign finance. CITIZEN KOCH examines the mushrooming struggle between money and democracy through the dramatic lens of the 2011 standoff in Wisconsin when Governor Scott Walker, bankrolled by out-of-state billionaires, stripped state employees of their union rights.
Among a million outraged Wisconsinites, we meet individuals struggling with their Republican political loyalties as they decide whether to join the grassroots-fueled recall of Walker, a GOP rising star and Tea Party favorite. Meanwhile, on a national level, former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer watches his Republican presidential campaign fizzle as he refuses, on principle, donations of more than $100 and gets outspent and drowned out by Super PAC–funded opponents. Combining intimate vérité scenes and a big-picture–style investigative exposé, CITIZEN KOCH probes behind the headlines to penetrate one of the core issues of our time: Who really has the power in America— private donors or the voting public?
Alumni Deal and Lessin won the 2008 Sundance Grand Jury Prize for their joint feature directorial debut, TROUBLE THE WATER. The film went on to win accolades from other festivals and critics, and was nominated for an Academy Award the next year. Producer Gillian Caldwell has a background working in human rights advocacy and climate change, and worked with Lessin on her hour-long doc, BEHIND THE LABELS. Serving as executive producers are Sundance alums Abigail Disney (executive producer, SERGIO (2009), CHILDREN OF INVENTION (2009), HELL AND BACK AGAIN (2011), THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES (2012), THE INVISIBLE WAR (2012) and Gini Reticker (co-producer, NERAKHOON – THE BETRAYAL (2008); director, IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN (2004); producer, A DECADE UNDER THE INFLUENCE (2003); director, ASYLUM (2003); director, NEW SCHOOL ORDER (1997); director, HEART OF THE MATTER (1994)), as well as Farhad Ebrahimi, a philanthropist (The Chorus Foundation) and supporter of the Occupy movement in Boston.
Why You Should Watch:
Deal and Lessin capture the far-reaching consequences of Citizens United with this sobering look at the clash between corporate and public interests. Koch brothers-backed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s barely disguised attack on the unions and Buddy Roehmer’s frustrating stillborn special-interest-free presidential campaign starkly expose the need for true campaign finance reform, a goal that this doc might hopefully help bring to a larger public discussion.
Check for updates at the film’s website and Facebook page. For Deal and Lessin’s thoughts on their doc, check out her Meet the Artists profile for Sundance. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.