Good films evoke emotion. Three films which screened at the tenth annual Anthem Film Festival took viewers on just such emotional journeys. Anthem, part of FreedomFest, normally takes place in Las Vegas, but this year, in order to avoid potential COVID difficulties, relocated to Rapid City, South Dakota.
Taking Poletown, Metrics, and A Piece of Cake, three of the 39 films shown over the four days of the festival, grabbed viewers and took them on rides from pain to laughter and many places in between.
Government can violate human rights. At a libertarian themed event like Anthem, you’d expect to see films on this subject. But Taking Poletown illustrates how a violation can be so much worse when the public and private sector work together to deprive people of their property. A previous Anthem film, Little Pink House, told a similar story.
Motivo Media and FedSoc Films, supported by The Federalist Society, produced Taking Poletown, a David and Goliath story, with Goliath winning. In the early 1980s, Goliath, in the form of General Motors, wanted a new place to build a factory around Detroit. They spotted David, the people of the City of Hamtramck, known in the region’s slang as “Poletown”.
Ironically, it was the closure of the General Motors Hamtramck Plant that piqued the filmmakers attention. The film begins with aerial photos of the plant, then the community that formerly occupied the space. Interviews with people recalling their disrupted childhoods show how much deeper “using eminent domain for the public good” goes than just transferring property.
The film does not take just one side, but explores the motivations of Goliath as well. Detroit had been damaged by riots and the auto industry hurt by Japanese imports. There are two sides to every issue, but I think you will side with David on this one. You can watch this masterfully done documentary on YouTube.
Taking Poletown tells a sad story. Metrics steps into satire, still delivering emotion and a social message, but letting us smile along the way.
The protagonist, Tom Ford, works as a doorman in a slightly dystopian future. He actually works as many doormen through a computerized interface. Some of the residents, so used to interacting with computers, don’t believe he is real. Reaching out for some kind of interaction beyond checking IDs and unlocking doors, he buys an Alexa-like personal assistant to sit on his desk.
Filmmaker Grant Bergland shared with the Anthem audience that his primary purpose was to satire how shopping has become dominated by online programs observing everything we do and say. Hence the film’s tagline: “They are listening.”
I think the film succeeds way beyond that goal,. It explores Tom’s personal ennui in the world where nearly everything is done through a computer interface. Watch the trailer here and find out more about the film at its website.
A Piece of Cake
Devastating social criticism can also come with laughter. That’s the emotion you get from directors Austin and Meredith Bragg’s film: A Piece of Cake.
Ever heard the argument that government over-regulates commerce? A father, wants to avoid disappointing his young daughter with another broken promise. He sets out to find some silver sprinkles to go on her birthday cake. Simple enough? Not in California.
The father, played by Rich Sommer (GLOW, Mad Men), runs into smugglers, hardened police, and the upside-down world that can result when government gets between people and a product that they want. Even the trailer will make you laugh, and you can watch it below and find out where and when you can see A Piece of Cake on its Facebook page.