Cinema Libre // 2011 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 28th, 2012
Exploring the polarization in America that cripples our country's ability to solve its most serious problems.
Full disclosure: I'm the kind of guy who thinks the more gridlocked Congress is, the better we're all off. The makers of this documentary, on the other hand, hold the view that if the two sides of the aisle could just buckle down and get along, the political process would be a far more effective. Writer/director Brian Malone endeavors to tease out the reasons for such far-reaching polarization among the nation's populace and, by proxy, Congress.
To do this, he points his lens and narration at the big political highlights of recent years: Obamacare, the debt ceiling debate, the Tea Party, No Labels, Citizens United, and the President's fiscal commission. Who are the major players? What are the entrenched interests? Why such friction? Malone supplements this material with interviews from media personalities like Eleanor Clift, Bob Schieffer, Pat Buchanan, and politicians / former politicians including Senators Kent Conrad, Mark Warner, and congressmen from both parties.
Two things that leapt out at me: 1) Despite the claims of objectivity, Patriocracy is absolutely a left-leaning production; and 2) I'm unsure, even after having viewed it, what Malone's point is.
About Point One, Malone lays the wood to Citizens United; features lots of footage of Tea Partiers grousing about Obamacare (yet oddly doesn't include the myriad Bush = Hitler protests that characterized much of the citizen activism from 2002-2008); lauds amusing, but inconsequential stuff like Colbert and Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity; and essentially traces our cultural rift to Barry Goldwater and, by extension, Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America. On the flip side, President Obama emerges unscathed, painted often as the great Grand Bargainer.
Fine. Whatever. I have zero problem with a true blue political documentary, but this release is framed as objective and fact-finding. Despite the inclusion of liberal talking heads and websites as contributors to the problem, this supposedly neutral production is transparently ideological. (Another example: ousted Republican Congressman Bob Inglis gets much screen time and plenty of opportunity to lament his loss in the primary at the hands of a Tea Party candidate, but the dude got waxed by fifty points!!! Why do we care what he has to say?).
I'm more flummoxed by Point Two. I'm not sure what Malone is going for here. Does he want everyone to become moderates? Arguably, some of the most successful, genuinely effective legislation like welfare reform was passed when opposing parties occupied different branches of government and fought pretty furiously against each other. But ideological uniformity has shown to yield relatively little as well. The Democrats held all three branches with a filibuster-proof majority just a few years ago, and couldn't pass a budget or unleash the higher tax rates that Patriocracy appears to endorse.
So, what's the endgame? A smaller audience for cable news and blogs? More Grand Bargains? I don't see it happening. The country is sharply divided on cultural and political lines and the two parties espouse dramatic policy ideas. These entrenched principles are often characterized as "far-left" or "far-right," but I find that derogatory. These are genuine disagreements and the way to hash them out in America hasn't changed: persuade your neighbor, then drag your ass to your middle school and vote.
Though, there is a lot less dueling.
The DVD: standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 2.0 Stereo, and a selection of extended interviews.
As a documentary, this is nicely-executed, but Patriocracy is neither ideologically neutral nor clear on its intent, other than bitching about people being mad about stuff.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Libre
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Extended Interviews