A longtime favorite of rep programmers and civics classrooms alike, Frank Capra’s classic 1939 political fable Mr. Smith Goes to Washington tells the story of a naïve young scout leader (James Stewart) who improbably finds himself elevated to the position of U.S. Senator. Once inside the beltway, the titular Mr. Smith is soon confronted with harsh realities of modern politics, his idealistic view of American government sorely challenged. And, in the eight decades since the film’s release, the suffix …goes to Washington has often been invoked to characterize the struggles of ambitious political outsiders to remake the system.
Sometimes the fruits of these ambitions can go, well… swamp-drainingly awry. But more often than not, it’s precisely this injection of new blood—and better still, new ideas—that helps our perennially imperfect nation to continue to evolve. Which is why over the past few weeks we’ve been proud to present a very special, election-cycle programming slate dubbed (what else?) Film Independent Goes to Washington, which will continue to run for several more weeks.
Free to the general public, this special series has thus far featured two great politically-minded docs—All In: The Fight for Democracy and The Way I See It—with much more to come. Keep reading to find out everything that’s happened so far (including how you can catch up) as well as everything coming up… (Oh, also: don’t forget to vote.)
FILM INDEPENDENT GOES TO WASHINGTON
All In: The Fight for Democracy. Voting, in fact, is the subject of Lisa Cortés and Liz Garbus’s new documentary All In—which juxtaposes the media-friendly-but-ultimately-unsuccessful 2018 campaign of prospective Georgia governor Stacey Abrams with an academic history of voter disenfranchisement and vote-suppression. Following a sneak preview of the film in our virtual screening room, Cortés, Garbus, producer Dan Cogan and African American Studies Professor Carol Anderson hopped on Zoom for an in-depth Q&A with guest moderator Franklin Leonard, creator of the Hollywood Black List. The film will be available beginning September 18 on Amazon Prime. Watch the full Q&A above.
The Way I See It. Photojournalist Pete Souza boasts the unique distinction of serving as White House photographer under two very different presidents: Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Since leaving his gig along with the rest of the Obama administration in 2016, Souza has joined Instagram, shrewdly wielding the platform to deliver devastating critiques of Donald Trump while sharing his unrivaled archive of images. Now, Souza’s career and continuing activism are the subject of Dawn Porter’s new documentary The Way I See It—her second film in very nearly as many months, following July’s John Lewis: Good Trouble. After a preview screening of the new film, Souza and Porter joined Fi President Josh Welsh for a Q&A, which you can watch in its entirety above.
The Glorias. Who better to helm a biopic of pioneering feminist and Ms. magainze founder Gloria Steinem than the great Julie Taymor (Frida, Across the Universe)—and who better to play her than two-time Film Independent Spirit Award winner Julianne Moore. The new drama, which premiered at Sundance and was released by Roadside Attractions and LD Entertainment on September 30, observes Steinem as she travels the world, broadening her understanding of human societies and continuing to develop her own progressive philosophies. The film co-stars Janelle Monáe, Alicia Vikander, Bette Milder and more. Watch our full post-screening Q&A with Julie Taymor and Carla Renata again.
What the Constitution Means to Me. One of the biggest surprise hits of the 2019 Broadway season, Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me is simultaneously one of the most personal and most one of broadly relevant theatrical works of the past half-decade. Performed largely by Schreck herself as both the present-day version of herself and as a 15-year-old, the play takes the form of a series of Constitutional speech and debate monologues,touching on women’s issues, ranging from abortion rights to domestic abuse, sexual abuse and immigration. Now, a full performance of the play is available to watch on Amazon Prime, courtesy of Film Independent Spirit Award winner Marielle Heller.
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NOTE: an earlier version of this blog originally ran in September.