Monday, August 25, 2008

Movies make a splash at the DNC

There's a first time for just about everything. After a lifetime of moviegoing, I finally attended a screening that required passing through a Secret Service check. (See photo above.) This bow to security was part of the Impact Film Festival, which is unreeling at the Starz Green Room, which is located across from the Pepsi Center, home of the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The facility -- 12 theaters and a lounge -- normally plays home to the Starz FilmCenter, which also hosts the Denver Film Festival. Festival personnel have cleared out for the week, and the DNC has taken over.

The Impact Festival, designed to show socially oriented documentaries to decision makers, is accompanied by a variety of other events: booking signings (Arianna Huffington showed up Monday to autograph "Right is Wrong"), movies with political themes (from "Medium Cool" to "The Candidate") and panels: "United We Stand: A Black/Latino Vote Conversation" and "They Got the Memo: Members of Congress Reveal How They Push a Pro-Women Agenda" are two examples.

I saw "I.O.U.S.A.," a new documentary from director Patrick Cheadon, who previously directed "Wordplay," a popular and very entertaining documentary about crossword puzzles.

"I.O.U.S.A." does a brilliant job of making a complicated subject (the economy) comprehensible to the economically challenged. That would be me. The movie offers instruction on such matters as the difference between fiscal and monetary policy and explains the role of the Federal Reserve Board. But what makes "I.O.U.S.A." so compelling is the fear factor. Cheadon offers a myriad of examples and much evidence to show that the country is being undermined by burgeoning debt, more than $8 trillion at the time the film was made.

Cheadon attended the screening, along with Dave Walker, the former U.S. Comptroller General who's prominently featured in the film. Basically, "I.O.U.S.A." warns that we're saddling our children and grandchildren with a dismal future.

I'm not sure it was intended, but here's what I took away from the film: Programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid increasingly will come under fire. I've heard Walker argue that health care constitutes a bigger problem than Social Security. In a Q&A session after the film, he cautioned that the U.S. is "going to have to restructure its promises." Hmmm.

Someone else pointed out that more than 50 percent of the country's wealth is concentrated in the hands of 10 percent of the population. I'm betting that that 10 percent won't suffer as much as those of us in the other 90 percent.

Whatever one's politics -- and the film is non-partisan -- "I.O.U.S.A" easily could adopt as its motto: "Be afraid! Be very afraid!" Watching this film, I was.

I also visited the Green Room, a lounge where delegates and other visitors can hang out, eat cookies and sip water. (See photo of people hanging out, but not eating cookies.) The whole deal is being sponsored by Starz Entertainment, SeaChange Communications Ideas Forum, the Impact Film Festival and The Denver Film Society. The Impact Film Festival also will travel to the Republican Convention next week. I don't know if these films have the power to "move the needle," as one of the festival's organizers put it, but they make for an interesting collection of docs.

Just for the record, the above photograph shows part of the long line of journalists who were waiting to pass through security and enter the Pepsi Center on Monday, the official start of the DNC.

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