George Haymont reviewed “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” back in October for his blog, My Cultural Landscape.
Writing about our movie alongside “New York, I Love You,” he couldn’t resist comparing Manhattan, New York to Manhattan, Kansas, beginning as follows:
While two new films focus on two very different areas of American life, they are tied together by a single word: Manhattan. The states of Kansas and New York each have a Manhattan. But consider the differences between Manhattan, Kansas and the island of Manhattan.
Manhattan, Kansas is flat. The other Manhattan is noticeably vertical.
Manhattan, Kansas is often seen as the center of the country — the so-called “Heartland of America.” By contrast, Manhattanites are convinced that their home is the center of the world, if not the universe.
Manhattan, Kansas is a small college town. The other Manhattan is an international center of art and commerce.
Manhattan, Kansas is predominantly white and Christian. The other Manhattan is a huge melting pot, with only 44.1% of the population identified as white.
Manhattan, Kansas covers a metropolitan area of 1,888 square miles. The other Manhattan covers only 22.96 square miles.
Of course, unmentioned but probably very much on his mind:
Manhattan, KS voted for John McCain over Barack Obama, 56% to 44%, while Manhattan, New York voted for Obama over McCain, 85% to 14%.
Mr. Haymont continues:
As directed by Joe Winston, What’s The Matter With Kansas? does not preach (although it shows many who do). Nor does it bear false witness (although it shows many who do).
Instead, Winston’s film simply witnesses what’s going on in Kansas and talks with some of the people who reflect the state’s culture. The Kansans interviewed range from Angel Dillard (a Republican activist who named her children after Ronald Reagan) to Donn Teske (the President of the Kansas Farmers Union) and an ornery folk sculptor named M. T. Liggett who doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind….
What’s The Matter With Kansas? (which will soon be screened at the Eighth San Francisco Documentary Festival) offers stark contrasts between the serene beauty of the Kansas landscape and the ugly hatred fomented by Christians who refuse to accept any kind of wall between the interests of church and state. It’s interesting to note that the only black person seen in the film is the cab driver from Sierra Leone who picks up Donn Teske during his visit to Washington, D.C. to testify before Congress about farm issues.
As one watches footage from Operation Rescue’s 1991 Summer of Mercy in Wichita, Kansas and listens to conservative politicians who are determined to fight abortion and gay rights, it becomes very clear just what’s the matter with Kansas. Kansans have been brainwashed by religious opportunists who prey on fear and ignorance.
You can read his entire review here.