"This film came together as an urgent message," explained author Naomi Wolf this weekend at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Published last fall, her book The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, was swiftly adapted for the screen by filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg ("The Devil Came on Horseback," "The Trials of Darryl Hunt") and a version was completed just in time for a Hamptons fest screening on Friday and a SnagFilms online debut this week.
"I wrote this book because I could no longer ignore the echoes between events in the past and forces at work today," Wolf begins in her acclaimed book. Like the work, "The End of America" lays out a ten-point blueprint for what Wolf calls, "closing societies." Introducing the new documentary on Friday, Wolf explained that she studied history and found alarming links that shaped her narrative. Exploring the history of emerging dictatorships in Germany, Italy, Argentina, the Czech Republic and China, Wolf predicted a bleak future for the United States in the wake of rights restrictions imposed in the wake of 9/11.
A clip from Friday's Hamptons International Film Festival conversation with Naomi Wolf, Alec Baldwin and Ricki Stern.
Would-be dictators seeking to "close a democracy," she noted, "All do the same ten things. Always. And it always works." Continuing later, she added ominously, "It's going to get very dark," in this country. Her lecture lays out a disturbing prognosis for the country, one that she argues will be hard to avoid no matter who is elected the President of the United States in two weeks. So, while Wolf is aimed at creating awareness before November 4th, she is also focused on setting the agenda for the next administration that will take office on January 20th of next year.
While filmmaker Sundberg brought the project to IndiePix's Bob Alexander earlier this year, production began in earnest this summer and continued right up until the last possible moment. Stuck in traffic on Friday evening en route to the Hamptons with the final version of the movie, Annie Sundberg kept filmmaking partner Ricki Stern, and a full house audience, waiting at the theater. Unfazed, Wolf was joined on stage for an extended, impromptu conversation about the film with Alec Baldwin.
Comprised of web clips, home video footage and news reports, the at times roughly assembled film evokes Davis Guggenheim's "An Inconvenient Truth," documenting a lecture by Wolf that urges immediate action. It feels tailor-made for a web-based debut. The filmmakers are aimed at getting it out in time for next month's U.S. presidential election and, while they are selling DVDs now to select advocacy groups, the indefinite SnagFilms release precedes a December theatrical release at New York's IFC Center and then a public DVD debut in time for U.S. Inauguration Day in January.
Friday night's conversation between Wolf and Baldwin covered a lot of ground: the war in Iraq, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's crackdown on civil protest during the 2004 Republican convention and his move to suspend term limits to seek a third term as Mayor, and of course the upcoming election.
"The End of America" is available in its entirety via SnagFilms.
"If Barack Obama is elected by a miracle in a transparent, accountable election, we are not out of the woods," Naami Wolf said candidly during the conversation. "It's the better outcome because at least we are avoiding the wholesale dismantling of our checks and balances and the further establishment of police state basics that I've argued you're going to see in a Palin presidency. I'm not so concerned about John McCain, but I'm very, very concerned about Palin being surrounded by Rove advisors and Rove speech writers."
"In a closing society, you often see a telegenic, not-very-bright figurehead selected by the same group of criminals who intend to be the powers behind the throne in the next regime," Wolf said, ""Dictators love elections, they hold elections all the time. They just make sure their elections are corrupted and that a figurehead that's on their team gets in. So if we elect Obama, it'll stabilize things enough for what's necessary for a real citizen's revolution, a grassroots American democracy movement, and we've started one..."
Not much later, Annie Sundberg arrived and Wolf wrapped up her remarks. "Before you go into this dark journey, I just want to say, history categorically shows that when we all work together we can reverse this and come out stronger," adding simply, "Thank you all so much."
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