By Brian Brooks | Indiewire October 6, 2010 at 10:38AM
With an eye toward the upcoming midterm election next month, online doc outletSnagFilms is launching the "Midterm Madness” series featuring fifteen issues-oriented documentaries, several of which will be available online for the first time. Each title will be shareable across the web.
In addition to screening online, "SnagFilms' Midterm Madness Festival" will have a more traditional in-theater viewing in conjunction with the Hamptons International Film Festival this weekend, which opens tomorrow and runs through the weekend. The event (October 7 - 11) will screen five new documentaries on issues influencing U.S. voters this Fall, incluing "Welcome to Shelbyville" by Kim Snyder (World Premiere), "Cool It" by Ondi Timoner (US Premiere), "On Coal River" by Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood (New York Premiere), "No Tomorrow" by Roger Weisberg and Vanessa Roth and "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer by Alex Gibney. The festival’s “Midterm Madness” centerpiece film will be Davis Guggenheim’s "Waiting for Superman." Guggenheim will include a Q&A following the screening on October 9th.
Additionally, the Hamptons International Film Festival will host a panel discussion about political documentary filmmaking, featuring the directors with films in the "Midterm Madness" sidebar on Friday, October 8th in East Hampton, NY.
“Americans have had it with soundbites and attack ads,” commented SnagFilms CEO Rick Allen in a statement. “They want thoughtful perspectives on tough issues, and they’ll get it from these noted films in our huge library. Before you go into the voting booth alone, watch these films with friends, on every topic you’re passionate about.”
"We are always looking for unique partners, and during this midterm election year what better partner than SnagFilms and documentaries about the election, added Director of Programming for Hamptons International Film Festival, David Nugent. From the screening booth to the voting booth, it is a great way to see how films can influence no only public policy, but the world we live in.”
The slate of films screening in "SnagFilms' Midterm Madness Festival," with descriptions and information provided by SnagFilms:
"Waiting to Inhale," directed by Jed Riffe (online debut)
The film examines the heated debate over medical marijuana in the United States. Twelve states have passed legislation to protect patients who use medical marijuana. Yet opponents claim the medical argument is just a smokescreen for a different agenda - to legalize marijuana for recreation and profit. What claims are being made, and what are the stakes? "Waiting to Inhale" takes viewers inside the lives of patients who have been forever changed by illness—and parents who lost their children to addiction. Is marijuana really a gateway drug? What evidence is there to support the claim that marijuana can alleviate some of the devastating symptoms of AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis? "Waiting to Inhale" sheds new light on this controversy and presents shocking new evidence that marijuana could hold a big stake in the future of medicine.
"Ripe for Change," directed by Emiko Omori
California -- always a fascinating marriage of opposite extremes -- is at a cross-roads in agriculture policy. Many Californians are struggling to fend off overdevelopment and the loss of farming lands and traditions while embracing innovative visions of agricultural sustainability. At the same time, California is where fast food was born and a center of the biotechnology industry and large corporate agribusiness. The debates raging in California over issues of food, agriculture, and sustainability have profound implications for all of America, especially in a world where scarcity is the norm and many natural resources are diminishing.
This fascinating documentary explores the intersection of food and politics in California over the last 30 years. It illuminates the complex forces struggling for control of the future of California's agriculture, and provides provocative commentary by a wide array of eloquent farmers, prominent chefs, and noted authors and scientists. The film examines a host of thorny questions: What are the trade-offs between the ability to produce large quantities of food versus the health of workers, consumers, and the planet? What are the hidden costs of "inexpensive" food? How do we create sustainable agricultural practices?
Through the "window" of food and agriculture, Ripe for Change reveals two parallel yet contrasting views of our world. One holds that large-scale agriculture, genetic engineering, and technology promise a hunger-less future. The other calls for a more organic, sustainable, and locally focused style of farming that reclaims the aesthetic and nurturing qualities of food and considers the impact of agriculture on the environment, on communities, and on workers.
"Bring Your 'A' Game," directed by Mario Van Peebles (online debut)
A 17 year old African-American male encounters prominent Black male icons ('A' Gamers) from diverse fields in a hip, computer-generated video game-style world, underscoring the importance of high school graduation and educational achievement.
"Becoming Barack," directed by Robert Yuhas (online debut)
"Becoming Barack" presents a close-up, never-seen perspective of Barack Obama. Starting with his early days as a Chicago organizer in the 1980's and the early 1990's, "Becoming Barack" offers new details about how his identity evolved and his leadership skills developed. Even during this early period in his career, a vision of hope for "the world as it should be" shone brightly. But along the way, he realized that gaining power was the most certain path toward helping to assure change. This is the story of Barack Obama's amazing journey - a future president-years before he was a public figure.
"Purple States: 14 Shorts on the 08 General Election and Primaries," executive produced by Cynthia Farrar
[As the title suggests, the program will feature 14 shorts on the '08 general election and primaries.]
"Nuclear Tipping Point," directed by Ben Goddard
"Nuclear Tipping Point" is a conversation with former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and former Senator Sam Nunn, four men intimately involved in American diplomacy and national security over the last four decades, whose efforts have reframed the global debate on nuclear issues and, according to the New York Times, "sent waves through the global policy establishment."
"Truth in Numbers? Everything, According to Wikipedia," directed by Scott Glosserman and Nic Hill
Although Wikipedia is the 8th most popular website on the Internet today, and is already the 3rd most widely read 'publication' in human history, attracting 100 million unique visitors a month, this great social and academic experiment of our age is riddled with vandalism and challenged by skeptics, posing compelling questions about whether Wikipedia's model can truly achieve its goal.
The film intersperses founder Jimmy Wales' unusual rise to Internet super-stardom among the global implications of Wikipedia. Are entries factually accurate? Biased? Accountable? Does 'Jimbo' Wales posses the wisdom to ensure that Wikipedians aggregate knowledge correctly?
"Prom Night in Mississippi," directed by Paul Saltzman
In 1997, Academy Award winning actor, Morgan Freeman, who lives in the Charleston, Mississippi community, offered to fund the first-ever integrated Senior Prom in the history of Charleston's one high school. His offer was ignored. In 2008, Morgan offered again...and the East Tallahatchie County School Board accepted. In this town of 2,300 people, its high school of 415 black and white students had previously always held separate proms: one black, one white. The film follows the Charleston High senior class of 2008 preparing and attending their historic, first integrated prom, in the context of strong emotions, traditions, and conflict inherent in race relations in the community, and in the deep South.
"Operation Homecoming," directed by Richard E. Robbins
Eleven written items from the anthology "Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan and the Home Front" (ed. Andrew Carroll, Random House 2006) are presented using a variety of novel cinematic techniques. Each selection is chosen from the book's dozens of narratives, which were written not only by soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines but also by family members affected by combat deployments to the Middle East. The film's discrete sequences are synched with voice overs that are read from the writers' original work by a cadre of distinguished actors. The narrative presentations are interspersed with discussions by writers from the project and disquisitions on the nature and profundity of war writing by renowned writers who are themselves veterans of previous conflicts.
"Tying the Knot," directed by Jim de Seve (2008 Oscar-nominee for Best Documentary)
When a bank robber's bullet ends the life of police officer Lois Marrero, her wife of thirteen years, Mickie, is honored as her surviving spouse but denied all pension benefits. When Sam, an Oklahoma rancher, loses his beloved husband of 22 years, long-estranged cousins of his late spouse try to lay claim to everything Sam has. As Mickie and Sam's lives are put on trial, they are forced to confront the tragic reality that in the eyes of the law their marriages mean nothing. From an historical trip to the Middle Ages, to gay hippies storming the Manhattan marriage bureau in 1971, "Tying the Knot" digs deeply into the past and present to uncover the meaning of civil marriage in America today.
Extremely relevant, highly entertaining and utterly humanist, the critically-acclaimed film festival favorite Tying the Knot poignantly explores one of today’s hottest issues, the political war between gay people who want to marry and those determined to stop them.
"Questioning Faith," directed by Macky Alston
All his life, award-winning filmmaker Macky Alston has believed in a merciful and benevolent God. The untimely death of a close friend and fellow seminary student Alan Smith, however, challenges Alston’s deepest convictions. He initiates his film with the pressing question: How does one believe in God in the face of so much human suffering?
"Move On: The Movie," directed by Alex Jordanov and Scott Stevenson
"MoveOn: The Movie" is a feature-length documentary focusing on the revolutionary history of the biggest progressive grass-roots movement seen in the United States since the 1960s.
The 2000 election marked the end of the Bush era. For months, Republicans and Democrats squared up for the main event. Alongside the candidates, the parties, the powerful lobbies, the religious groups and the unions, a relative newcomer was part of the battle. MoveOn rocked the foundations of the American political system. In a span of just ten years, they have become a force to be reckoned with in America.
"Electorial High School," directed by Hayley Karl
Is it better for a presidential candidate to carry more votes or more states? "Electoral High School" is a short documentary that explores the strengths and weaknesses of the Electoral College by using it to elect a high school prom King and Queen.
"What’s the Matter with Kansas?" directed by Laura Cohen and Joe Winston
Based on journalist and historian Thomas Frank’s book of the same name (subtitled: How Conservatives won the Heart of America). The film shows Kansas’ transformation from an outpost of radicalism into a bastion of hard-core conservatism, telling the stories of unforgettable characters and shining a new light on our nation’s political divide.
"11/04/08," directed by Jeff Deutchman
Two weeks before the election of Barack Obama, director Jeff Deutchman asked friends around the world to record their experiences of 11/4/08, a day that had become historic before it had even taken place. In this documentary, a global canvas unfolds: in St. Louis and Austin, idealistic volunteers think they can turn their states blue. In Chicago, voter lines grow even longer when Obama shows up to cast his own vote. In Dubai, Berlin, Geneva and New Delhi, expatriates express their emotion from a distance. And in Harlem, a felon casts doubt on whether any of this will affect his life.
"11/04/08" unveils and unfolding global canvas s as we approach Obama's victory at 11pm EST. What emerges is a portrait of how people choose to live through history: the celebration of a new future remaining entangled with the universally visible tensions of the past.
[Disclosure: SnagFilms is the parent company of indieWIRE.]