Monday, March 16, 2009
Try as they might, Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock can only make so many flicks. If it seems like those are the only two documentary filmmakers who stir the pot on a regular basis, perhaps it’s time to give Films for Action a look.
Lawrence resident Tim Hjersted fired up FFA four years ago as a forum to present activist-minded films to local audiences. FFA’s website (filmsforaction.org) has since become an exhaustive resource to watch entire films that would never make it to mainstream theaters or DVD shelves. This year, Hjersted hopes to partner with the Solidarity! Revolutionary Center & Radical Library to develop a lending library. He also has aspirations to branch out nationally by releasing the FFA name under a non-commercial creative commons license and helping other cities launch similar projects.
Lawrence resident Tim Hjersted fired up Films for Action four years ago as a forum to present activist-minded films to local audiences. FFA will also reach the KU campus in 2009 thanks to Will Stewart-Starks, who is planning screenings at venues like the Kansas Union. Hjersted and Stewart-Starks joined us ...
Films for Action will also reach the KU campus in 2009 thanks to Will Stewart-Starks, who is planning screenings at venues like the Kansas Union. Starks will bring a fresh perspective into the fold as a result of his experiences as a soldier (he’s also involved with Iraq Veterans Against the War) and his Libertarian bents.
Hjersted and Stewart-Starks joined us to discuss upcoming FFA events, the shortcomings of the mainstream media, and avenues for exploration in the world of alternative media.
lawrence.com: What is Films for Action?
Hjersted: It started to address some of the deficiencies of the mainstream media and what I saw as a lack of diversity of information and perspectives. You see that especially with the economic crisis right now: a lot of the solutions are very one-sided. With health care, no one ever brings up single-parent healthcare; it’s always an issue of private vs. public or other conservative solutions.
So you’re saying we can’t depend on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert alone for our news?
Hjersted: They hold it down, but they can only go so far on a cable network. There are a lot of things that they still can’t touch, even though they do a lot of biting commentary on things that Katie Couric doesn’t talk about. That was great watching (Stewart) go on that eight-minute slam of CNBC and Jim Kramer.
Will – you served in the Army for nine months in 2004. When you came back and watched the news, how did that compare with your actual experiences?
Stewart-Starks: Actually, while I was there watching the news I had the shocking realization. Quite frankly, the news wasn’t reflecting what was actually happening – the good and the bad. I was seeing the delay in the news coverage; how a lot of the issues were weeks old. When I came home, I discovered more information on the internet by going to personal blogs and independent sources. Finding that information immediately was a new experience. I felt like I was getting diverse opinions and some substance.
Were you reading soldiers’ blogs?
Stewart-Starks: I was listening to soldiers who were there and watching YouTube videos of people commenting on what the pundits were saying in the mainstream media. All those perspectives are completely different than any experience you’re going to get on television.
What are some of your favorite independent media sources?
Hjersted: I go to huffingtonpost.com, projectcensored.org, mediamatters.org, whatreallyhappened.com, adbusters.org … Even reading all the news, I’ll still see a bunch of stuff I hadn’t heard about. It’s always pretty amazing. I’ve catalogued all the best indie media sites on the FFA website.
Why did you want to screen “I.O.U.S.A.”?
Stewart-Starks: We wanted to find a film that wasn’t offensive to one political party or another and open up a discussion on the national debt. It follows people like David Walker, the former Comptroller General … People listen to him because he’s coming from the center and he’s trying to give people the truth. The debt is such a serious issue that he felt compelled to do this film. He actually quit his job because no one in Washington was listening to him.
Hjersted: It’s a great jumping-off point for trying to think up some solutions. The (bailouts) have really made people question the fundamentals of capitalism and unregulated markets. I think what we really need right now are some big ideas outside of the box.
Stewart-Starks: Part of the film goes into the shape of our economy: Are we producing things? Or are we just consuming? The top jobs in our economy aren’t producing and selling to other countries. It’s all dependent on the prestige of our dollar and our ability to consume. It’s kind of ludicrous.
What else do you have planned in upcoming months?
Hjersted: We’re going to screen “The Take” on March 30 at Liberty Hall. It’s going to double as a benefit for the new Solidarity center. It’s a great, timely film that deals with 30 auto parts workers in Argentina when their economy collapsed in 2001 … The country’s manufacturing base collapsed because all the corporations sold their assets and moved their money overseas. It’s kind of a warning to our economy, because that’s what we’re seeing right now.
The interesting thing about the film is that these (laid-off) workers occupy the factories and start them back up … Instead of having the government support them and save them, they relied on their communities and the help of other worker collectives. I think it’s great food for thought.