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By Bryan Newbury
March 9, 2010

Many say that America is a Christian nation. Among those claimants, there is a burgeoning ideology, which seeks to reclaim the historical record – the same crew have been marginally successful with this approach towards pure science, so there is little reason to doubt that history would be any less malleable – and put an image of snake handling evangelicals in the place of pragmatic deists. Dubious as their claims are, the Christian nationalists, for want of a better moniker, do have one bit of fact on their side: nominally, at least, the majority of Americans do identify as Christians. In Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore poses the question, “So, are we?”

Not being a scholar in divinity or a professed member of any religious group, it isn’t for this reviewer to sit in judgment. Having a cursory knowledge of the Gospels as they are laid out in the King James Bible, it is tempting to come down with a thunderous No. The reader likely will refuse to take this verdict, or, for that matter, Mr. Moore’s. Luckily, Moore provides credentialed men of the cloth to posit that if we are a Christian nation, we are nonetheless governed by a profoundly unchristian economic system. (Should there be confusion as to whether we are governed by an economic system rather than a political one, there is an instructive dialogue with an editor at The Wall Street Journal to allay that head scratcher.)

As usual, Moore builds his case on whimsical educational films from more innocent times, cataloguing the avaricious transgressions of the ruling class and juxtaposing those iniquities with the inevitable inequities and how they play out in those locales that the populations of Washington and Wall Street couldn’t give a good goddam about. It is a bit of a departure, however, to see the Flint of twenty years ago becoming the template for contemporary Miami. Moore has documented the progression, and we should be thankful for it. At this point, we all know what we know to expect, but where does Capitalism fit in the Moore œuvre?

Peculiarly, though expectedly, as a sort of prequel.

While the chronology and scenery suggest the conclusion to a larger body of work archiving the devolution of our republic from free state to fiefdom, there is reason to consider viewing Capitalism as Part I. were one to introduce Michael Moore to an alien observer. (Begging pardon if the observation has been made here before on the last of Moore’s “last” films, but this installment supplants the whole order of things where a marathon Michael Moore viewing is concerned.) After all, the narrative arc from Roger & Me to Sicko, including as it does our propensity for gun violence and general distaste for actual democracy, to say nothing of our “medieval health care nonsystem,” in the words of Rachel Maddow, is informed by a devaluation of human life and functional liberty. What is the true exception in American exceptionalism? An ideology of individualism as manifested by callousness towards our fellow man seems to be at the root of it. How can we stand alone among industrialized countries in both violent crime and lack of health care access? Look no further than the fundamentally unchristian nature of our republic’s economic system. Read the rest of this entry »


By Umut Newbury
December 18, 2007

It is seven days from Christmas 2007 and that puts us one step closer to Shopocalypse according to Rev. Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping.

No American shopper would want to be bothered by the true impact of her consuming behavior at this time of the year. Christmas is so instilled in our social existence in North America that even the most conscientious, eco-friendly and sustainable-living oriented folks out there want to make exemptions to please loved ones. No one wants to be the Grinch. Director Rob VanAlkemade’s documentary What Would Jesus Buy? is a sobering film about the lengths we all go to avoid being the Grinch and how we are hurling ourselves toward Shopocalypse because of our consumerism and over-consumption. Read the rest of this entry »



These films represent a broad section of new documentaries by American independent filmmakers. From examinations of the American political system and the country’s use of natural resources to explorations of cultural development and intimate portraits of legendary artists, these films represent a thematic and artistic variety. This year’s 16 films were selected from a record 953 submissions. Each film is a world premiere.

The films screening in Documentary Competition are:

AN AMERICAN SOLDIER (Director and Screenwriter: Edet Belzberg)—Uncle Sam really wants you! A compelling exploration of army recruitment in the United States told through the story of Louisiana Sergeant, First Class Clay Usie, one of the most successful recruiters in the history of the U.S. Army. World Premiere

AMERICAN TEEN (Director and Screenwriter: Nanette Burstein)— This irreverent cinema vérité chronicles four seniors at an Indiana high school and yields a surprising snapshot of Midwestern life. World Premiere

BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER* (Director: Christopher Bell; Screenwriters: Christopher Bell, Alexander Buono, Tamsin Rawady)—A filmmaker explores America’s win-at-all-cost culture by examining his two brothers’ steroids use…and his own. World Premiere

FIELDS OF FUEL (Director and Screenwriter: Josh Tickell)— America is addicted to oil and it is time for an intervention. Enter Josh Tickell, a man with a plan and a Veggie Van, who is taking on big oil, big government, and big soy to find solutions in places few people have looked. World Premiere

FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER (Director: Irena Salina)— Water is the very essence of life, sustaining every being on the planet. FLOW confronts the disturbing reality that our crucial resource is dwindling and greed just may be the cause. World Premiere

GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON (Director: Alex Gibney)—Fueled by a raging libido, Wild Turkey, and superhuman doses of drugs, Thompson was a true “free lance,” goring sacred cows with impunity, hilarity, and a steel-eyed conviction for writing wrongs. Focusing on the good doctor’s heyday, 1965 to 1975, the film includes clips of never-before-seen (nor heard) home movies, audiotapes, and passages from unpublished manuscripts. World Premiere

THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO (Director and Screenwriter: Lisa F. Jackson)— Jackson travels to remote villages in the war zones of the Congo to meet rape survivors, providing a piercing, intimate look into the struggle of their lives. World Premiere

I.O.U.S.A. (Director: Patrick Creadon)—Few are aware that America may be on the brink of a financial meltdown. I.O.U.S.A. explores the country’s shocking current fiscal condition and ways to avoid a national economic disaster. World Premiere

NERAKHOON (THE BETRAYAL) (Director: Ellen Kuras; Co-Director: Thavisouk Phrasavath; Screenwriters: Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath)— The epic story of a family forced to emigrate from Laos after the chaos of the secret air war waged by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Kuras has spent the last 23 years chronicling the family’s extraordinary journey in this deeply personal, poetic, and emotional film. World Premiere

THE ORDER OF MYTHS (Director: Margaret Brown) — In 2007 Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras is celebrated…and complicated. Following a cast of characters, parades, and parties across an enduring color line, we see that beneath the surface of pageantry lies something else altogether. World Premiere

PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE (Director and Screenwriter: Steven Sebring)— An intimate portrait of music icon Patti Smith that mirrors the essence of the artist herself. World Premiere

ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED (Director: Marina Zenovich; Screenwriters: Marina Zenovich, Joe Bini, P.G. Morgan)— Marina Zenovich’s new documentary examines the public scandal and private tragedy which led to legendary director Roman Polanski’s sudden flight from the United States. World Premiere

SECRECY (Directors: Peter Galison, Robb Moss)— Amidst the American hunger for instantaneous news and up-to-date “facts,” this unflinching film uncovers the vast, invisible world of government secrecy. World Premiere

SLINGSHOT HIP HOP (Director: Jackie Reem Salloum)—The voice of a new generation rocks and rhymes as Palestinian rappers form alternative voices of resistance within the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. World Premiere

TRACES OF THE TRADE: A STORY FROM THE DEEP NORTH (Director: Katrina Browne; C0-Directors: Alla Kovgan, Jude Ray; Screenwriters: Katrina Browne, Alla Kovgan)—History finally gets rewritten as descendants of the largest slave-trading family in early America face their past, and present, as they explore their violent heritage across oceans and continents. World Premiere

TROUBLE THE WATER (Directors: Tia Lessin, Carl Deal)— An aspiring rap artist and her streetwise husband, armed with a video camera, show what survival is all about when they are trapped in New Orleans by deadly floodwaters, and seize a chance for a new beginning. World Premiere