"Classless: On Being Middle Class in America" is an official selection of the 2013 Chagrin Falls Documentary Film Festival.
Stay tuned for screening dates!
More and more documentaries about the fallout of the "Great Recession" are now surfacing. "American Winter" is a HBO documentary that "follows the personal stories of families struggling in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."
The following synopsis comes directly from the film's website:
"Working together with the nonprofit organization 211info in Portland, the filmmakers were given full access to monitor and record calls from distressed families who were calling 211’s emergency hotline in search of help. They then began following the stories of some of these callers in more depth over several months. The film follows multiple families in their daily struggle to keep their heads above water, while facing overwhelming challenges and dwindling resources available to help them, creating a powerful firsthand view of Americans caught in today’s financial undertow."
The National Film Board of Canada is a big player when it comes to social issue documentaries. They're also leading the way forward with interactive and web based documentary exhibition. Their recent documentary "GDP: The Human Side of the Canadian Economic Crisis" incorporates 100 photo essays and 150 short films into an in-depth look at the toll the economic downturn has had on Canadians.
With films from Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, and many other large Canadian cities, "GDP" may well be the most ambitous cross-continent documentary ever made.
Check out "GDP: The Human Side of the Canadian Economic Crisis" and the National Film Board's other interactive documentaries at NFB Interactive.
The Sundance Film Festival is just around the corner and there's a lot of buzz surrounding the political documentaries that will be featured. One such documentary, 99% (The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film), is sure to garner some attention. The film is unique in that it is "crowdsourced," or created collaboratively, by 60+ independent filmmakers across the country. The film's synopsis follows:
"In 2011, seemingly overnight, Occupy captured the imagination of our nation—and the world. The sweeping story of the birth of a movement, 99%—The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film follows a disparate group of activists who converge on lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to build a society organized by nonhierarchical decision-making structures. Inspired by the idea that wealth and political power are dangerously concentrated, grassroots groups from Minneapolis to Mississippi to Oakland soon follow suit, converging to focus on issues crucial to their own communities. After confrontations, expulsions, and mass arrests, the movement finds itself at a crossroad. What’s next?
Designed in part as an experiment modeled on Occupy’s process, the film employs multiple cameras around the country to capture the kinetic, immediate experience on the ground, peppered with a comprehensive range of viewpoints from activists, experts, and detractors. In an era of hopelessness and resignation, this film is a reminder that another world order is still possible."
Find out more at the http://www.99percentfilm.com
Michael Apted's newest installment in the "Up" series-- "56 Up", is now hitting theaters across the country! The film is unique in that it offers a longitudinal look at the lives of multiple characters from the age of 7 to the age of 56. Apted's "Up" series showcases the impact social class has on life opportunities while exploring the twists and turns of each character's life. "56 Up" is not to be missed.
Please also check out this fundraising campaign to get one of the characters to the New York City premiere.
Inequality for All is "endeavoring to be a paradigm-shifting, eye-opening experience for the American public." The filmmakers claim that Inequality for All will show, in an accurate and non-partisan way, "why extreme income inequality is such an important topic for our citizens today and for the future of America."
The fact that a film on inequality has made it to Sundance seems to suggest that Americans want more than our current economic system can provide (well being, peace of mind, etc).
Revered experimental filmmaker Chris Marker once claimed that he didn't like the term "documentary." He felt the term left a trail of "sanctimonious boredom" behind it. Unfortunately, I think Marker may have been right.
As I move forward on my documentary "Classless: On Being Middle Class in America," I fear that my film will be received as sanctimonious. I'm deep in the edit, sifting through footage, and teasing out themes that I hope others can relate to.
To keep things entertaining I'm toying with the idea of including a few "Middle Class Montages" like the one featured above. The idea is simple: start folks off with a statement and have them fill in the blank.
Here, my friends, acquaintances, and a few people I'd never met before, complete the statement: "you know you've achieved middle class status when __________."
The answers— whether snarky, serious, or critical, are all quite telling.
Indeed, how DO you know when you've achieved middle class status? Or, for that matter, the "American Dream"?
I've been working for quite a few months on my new documentary "Classless." I've talked to people from across the country and have tried to figure out how best to present issues of social class on film. In reading about social stratification and film I came across the 1983 classic "Educating Rita." The film stars Julie Walters and Michael Caine in what is, perhaps, the most thorough exploration of social class a narrative film can offer.
Julie Walters plays "Rita," an education hungry hairdresser studying at Britain's Open University. Michael Caine plays her reluctant, and alcoholic professor, "Frank". As the film progresses we see the separate and very different worlds these two characters inhabit. Rita's world is marked by routine, Saturday night sing-alongs at the local pub, and a yearning for more. Frank's world offers him autonomy, leisure time, and some intellectual fulfillment (even if Frank is disenchanted with the academy). As these characters' worlds collide the idea that social class is not just economic, but cultural, surfaces.
Perhaps it's funny that a 30 year old film can still seem so relevant, but when one considers the slowness with which ideas about economic class have progressed it's no wonder we're not much further along than we were in the 1980s. Indeed, most Americans still think the U.S. is the "Land of Opportunity," and that our society is, for the most part, "classless." Americans also think that issues of social class are merely economic; they miss the larger cultural component of class. "Educating Rita" shows us that class is tied to other issues of cultural and civil rights. Climbing up the social ladder grants one autonomy on the job, the ability to make important decisions about the course of ones own life, and security.
I'm not making a narrative film that deals with issues of social class, but if I was, I can't imagine I could make one better than "Educating Rita."
O.k., now it's back to the documentary. More clips, musings, and the like soon...
Rhetoric, "zingers," and other nonsense permeated speech at the first Presidential Debate. Barak Obama used the term "middle class" at least 15 times. Mitt Romney uttered the term 3 times. Romney made sure to differentiate himself from President Obama by twisting the term around a bit; he said "middle income Americans" close to 10 times. The candidates seem to be experts on the middle class, but no one else attending the debate is quiet as clear as the candidates are. Check out this short video survey from outside the first Presidential Debate to see exactly how Americans feel about the "middle class."