October 19, 2004

Movie and Metamovie

DVD is a whole new medium unto itself, creating a new language, new forms. Now when a movie is shot, a parallel behind-the-scenes movie is shot too. The distribution of a film on DVD via mail order provides an alternative channel that is badly needed when the airways are monopolized by a tyrannical few who do not allow a drop of news from the people's point of view. No noncorporate news need apply.

Suddenly an outcropping of alternative media aimed in profusion at the center of the George Bush empire. It's coming from a thousand directions at once. Like Gulliver brought down by the arrows of thousands of Lilliputians. Too many leaks in the dike to stop them all.

The behind-the-scenes film for Outfoxed is nearly as good as the feature itself, as good in its own way. It augments the film, refracts it, enlarges it. It shows in the most informal way how the film was made. It is directly talking to you, there is little artifice. It shows the operation by which Outfoxed was produced, speedily, efficiently, with tremendous organization and coordination, a brilliant conception and an inspired execution.

The filmmaker Robert Greenwald (Creator of Uncovered: The War In Iraq, see Amazon) assembled a team of video monitors to watch Fox News 24-7. At the same time Fox was recorded constantly and archived on DVD. The monitors watched for several categories of events and when those things happened, sent an e-mail noting the time and what category. The notes were all compiled and prepared for use as raw material for the editors.

Suddenly the forgotten history of yesterday comes out of the memory hole and stands clearly before us. There is Bill O'Reilly answering a suppposed e-mail and saying, "The 'shut up' line only happened once in six years..." followed by countless repetitions of O'Reilly telling people to shut up. It's Everyman the filmmaker fighting back against the giants.

Outfoxed would have been impossible on such an obviously small budget if it had not been for a tremendous amount of volunteerism from people who were eager to do something to help. The presentation of the women who served as media monitors was one of the highest cinematic moments I've experienced in a while. These were the regular Americans across the country in Kansas, in Tennessee, who do not want to see their country going the way it is going. They are the true heroes of America today. They are the real heirs of the tradition of American heroism, the sense of justice that underlay the formation of the republic, at least in theory.

These people are manifesting the metanoia (mind change) catalyzed by the Supreme Court's Bush v Gore decision. A woman from Tennessee who was a retired corporate manager summed it up beautifully: "When I saw the Supreme Court stop the voting and appoint the president of the United States, I felt there was a grave danger to our democracy."

Another of the monitors, a special education teacher, also harkened back to Dec. 13, 2000. She kept waiting for something to happen, for the truth to be revealed, but it never was, nothing happened. She became enraged. I know I went through the same thing, and by now I have read enough accounts to realize that what happened to me happened to a vast spectrum of the population. We all felt like we were alone. No voice that voiced what was obvious to me ever reverberated through the public media system. The voice that represented a moderate point of view was always squelched totally. As if it didn't exist at all. We who felt it was an obvious fraud, a tragic undermining of the system of laws itself thought we were alone. We all agonized in a darkened chamber alone, together.

I suspected, at least hoped that there were really multitudes out there who felt like I did. Now increasingly I am seeing them.

When nothing came to avert the crime, the suspension of the legal process itself in favor of the arbitrary rule of "the strong man", the special ed teacher said, she discovered the Internet, then Move0n.org. The creation of the film itself is a great triumph. And what's even better is that it's only one of many vibrant new films filling up the vacuum left in the media wasteland. The desolation of the mass media has been answered by a flood of creativity through the DVD network.

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