Vadim Rizov laments on the IFC Blog that we probably shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for a “real” (i.e. non-partisan) documentary film on the Tea Party movement:
American political documentaries tend to either center around campaigns (“Primary” and its many heirs), specific issue-focused activism, preaching to the choir (Michael Moore and Robert Greenwald) or retroactive explanations like “Standard Operating Procedure,” “No End In Sight” and the other films that try to put the pieces together after the damage is done. That’s why I have no hope that right now someone’s out there, prowling the vérité beat around the Tea Party.
The boat was missed during the the last big conservative movement in the ’80s, when Jerry Falwell’s buddy — the Rev. James Robinson — exhorted a nation with the stirring words “I’m sick and tired about hearing about all of the radicals, and the perverts, and the liberals, and the leftists, and the communists coming out of the closet. It’s time for God’s people to come out of the closet, out of the churches and change America.” And so they did — and what do we have to show for it in footage that wasn’t grabbed from TV news? Not a thing.
This week the New York Times decided it was finally time to give the Tea Party some serious attention and served up five pages of the best, concluding with a quote from one Pam Stout, who said “I would give up my life for my country. [...] Peaceful means are the best way of going about it. But sometimes you are not given a choice.” Given that, according to the Washington Independent, 11% of Americans now identify in some way or other as Tea Party supporters, it’s about time someone started paying comprehensive attention from the outside. And cobbled together a movie about it.
Where are the documentaries on the biggest thing in conservative politics since the religious right’s emergence in the ’80s? If film history has anything to teach us, it’s that there won’t be any for four or five years.
Of course, “Tea Party: The Documentary” is already out on DVD, but that’s essentially an extended infomercial created by some of the movement’s funders.
Maybe this time around filmmakers will move more quickly – esp. since there are so many more of us making documentaries. But we agree that it might take some time for a good one to emerge — a little historical perspective really helps to get past the shouting of the day.
Pundits on the left can’t even agree one what the Tea Party movement is – is it a centrally coordinated campaign of “astroturfing”? (Thomas Frank suggests so in this week’s Journal column.) A genuine grass-roots outpouring of populist anger, as the New York Times implies? A Fox News sideshow with racist undertones?
In our movie, we cover the conservative movement of the Bush years at the moment its ties to the Republican Party begin to unravel. The Tea Parties, whether or not they last, seem to signify the next chapter. As the fallout from the recent economic meltdown spreads, the stakes rise, and the debate gets uglier and uglier.