Christopher Renner of the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice held a community screening of “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” on October 13, and he reflects on it in the Kansas Free Press. Kansas Farmers Union President Donn Teske, who is featured in the movie, addressed the packed auditorium after the screening.
The film explores the motives behind why people hold the beliefs they do, but does not make conclusions about the characters and their futures.
Some of their statements drew laughs from the viewing audience; others obviously made people feel uncomfortable. For most of the audience, the blending of religious ideology with political activism is a real cause for concern and because the film does not directly condemn this as un-American, several viewers felt the film didn’t go far enough to reflect the core content of Frank’s thinking.
Also in the audience was a contingent of Right Wing supporters who fled as soon as the credits began to roll. As moderator of the film series, I was looking forward to hearing their reactions to the film in a public setting, since one of their bloggers had condemn the film without seeing it. Maybe they were afraid of what they saw and realized they could not approach the topic with the same evenhandedness as Cohen and Winston do in the film.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the commentary offer by Donn Teske about being part of the project, like the only pay he got was a bottle of whiskey. He shared that he did not really know what was going on until he got to see the finished project at Tallgrass last year. He said that Cohen and Winston had come out to visit him a couple of times on his ranch in Pottawatomie County, shot some footage and were off.
As a lapsed Republican, Teske embodies an ethos of compassion and respect that the Right Wing has left in the dust in their pursuit of the culture of greed. He also embodies what true Populism is all about. We see him eloquently address Congress on the crisis facing farmers and offers real alternatives to the business as usual approach government takes to the production of our food.
While What’s the Matter with Kansas? earnestly tries to speak to conservatives and offer an alternative to the delusional, inflammatory answers they are getting from faux-populist pundits like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, it plays it straight in order to attempt to create an honest dialogue. This left some progressives in the audience wanting something more. However, given the political landscape in Kansas, an honest dialogue about who we are is a rare commodity to be sure and that is what the film provides.
You can read his entire post here.
When we asked Donn Teske what he thought of the screening, he wrote:
Before the film began one of my very close friends from back when I worked crisis response came up to me and whispered in my ear that she had brought her sister along, who is a severe conservative and retired farm wife, and warned me that she might make trouble. After the film her sister came up to me and told me that she didn’t know what Char (my friend) was worried about. She agreed with everything I had to say in the film!
Very good evening, and really nice for stroking my vanity!
A local radio station had done an interview with me on the documentary a couple of weeks ago. They just called and did a post-interview with me this morning.
You’re still going to owe me more whiskey before this blows over.
So, what did you have to bribe Roger Ebert with to get him to call me “eloquent”?
Donn, the next time you see Joe or Laura, we’ll have a bottle of your favorite whiskey in hand (and we’ll see just how eloquent you can really be.)