IFC Celebrates First Amendment on Election Eve, with "Soldiers Pay" and a "Fahrenheit" Special
by Shilpa Mankikar
While voters prepare to line up at nationwide voting booths, the Independent Film Channel will cast its ballot for freedom of speech and documentary film on Monday night. IFC's pre-election programming comes to a grand finale with "Soldiers Pay," the 35-minute documentary from David O. Russell ("I ♥ Huckabees"). The film was originally shot as an extra for the intended DVD re-release of his Gulf War film "Three Kings" (1999). After Warner Brothers balked on the controversial election season release in August, Cinema Libre picked up the documentary in time for an October theatrical debut and now there will be a national IFC broadcast on the eve of the presidential election. Other IFC election picks include "The War Room" and "Fahrenheit 9/11: A Movement in Time."
"Soldiers Pay" was directed by David O. Russell, Tricia Regan, and Juan Carlos Zaldîvar, made for $207,000 in 6 weeks. Voices included in the doc range from Persian Gulf Veterans, Iraqis who rose up against Saddam Hussain after the Gulf War, journalists, psychologists, and a two-star general who led the Marines to victory in the Gulf. On August 16th, Russell was quoted in the New York Times, saying, "I thought I could perhaps make a difference before the election, let people see the situation, how Iraqis wanted to get rid of Saddam, but also show what war does to people." Those comments were enough to raise the hackles of studio lawyers and Warner Brothers quickly dropped both "Soldier's Pay" and the entire "Three Kings" re-release project, returning the rights to the filmmakers who pursued the deal with Cinema Libre.
"Soldiers Pay" will air with "The War Room" (1992), legendary documentarian D.A. Pennebaker's first foray back into political documentary since 1977. Pennebaker followed Clinton's 1992 election campaign, focusing on the adventures of spin doctors and strategists James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. The campaign managers try to stay on top of a maelstrom of events - from scandals (Gennifer Flowers) to the rise of quixotic spoiler Ross Perot. They also develop catch phrases, "It's the Economy, Stupid!" and veer the domestic policy debate in favor of Clinton.
This Friday night at 10pm, IFC will air "Fahrenheit 9/11: A Movement in Time". In the 30-minute piece, IFC examines the phenomenon of Michael Moore's award-winning, box office-topping film. Dropped by mousey Disney after winning the Palm D'Or, "Fahrenheit" broke theater attendance records, recharged the dejected peace movement, and garnered acclaim from diplomats and black block alike. This half-hour special includes clips from the film and reactions from the highest echelon in politics, journalism, and entertainment. Participants include Mario Cuomo, Susan Sarandon, Michael Stipe, Q-tip, Mary J. Blige, Bonnie Rait, and others.