Instant Film Festival

Election '04

During what's being called the "16-day sprint" between now and election day, the organizers of a new film tour hope to throw traditional film distribution out the window as they inspire citizen activism from coast to coast.

Organizers of the Films to See Before You Vote Tour have put together a bevy of this season's best political films into 25 "film-festival-in-a-box" kits, which will bring a series of acclaimed films – free of charge – to far-flung communities in key battleground states before the election.

This film tour is the result of a meeting of the minds behind the web site, created by Hollywood-based Peter Broderick and key players from the Imagine Festival of Arts, Issues and Ideas, which, during the Republican Convention in New York City in September, showcased more than 200 events at 75 venues.

The Imagine Festival creators joined forces with Peter Broderick on his existing web site to help facilitate the curated "festival-in-a- box" distribution and to catalyze action before Nov. 2. In recent months, Broderick's site has helped to coordinate various film screenings and served as a resource for those who "want to use film to bring people together and have an impact." The site continues to provide a list and links to other political films that can be bought individually or together. "At this site, anyone can connect to the best new political films, find out if they are playing in a local theater, or order them on DVD and receive them in a few days," said Broderick.

Veteran filmmaker and curator Jim Browne, of Imagine, said the Films to See Before You Vote Tour aims to help create impromptu film festivals in theaters, college auditoriums, libraries, churches, community centers, retirement centers and private residences all across the country. The success of Internet "house parties," for films like"Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" was also inspiration for the tour, Browne said.

Among the movies included in the Films to See Before You Vote Tour menu:

ABOUT BAGHDAD (InCounter Productions) In July 2003, an exiled Iraqi writer and poet returned to Baghdad to see what had become of his city after wars, sanctions, decades of oppression and violence – and now occupation.

SIXTY CAMERAS AGAINST THE WAR (Julie Talen) On Feb. 15, 2003, every major city on the planet protested the impending war in Iraq. "Sixty Cameras" uses simultaneous images to chronicle the powerful response in New York City.

THE GROUND TRUTH (Patricia Foulkrod) The ongoing story of American soldiers involved in a war in Iraq and Afghanistan that is largely invisible to the American public.

VOTING IN AMERICA (Laura Harrison & Charlotte Lagarde) A collection of 9 short films that explore voter apathy, redistricting in Texas, a get out the vote campaign on a Navajo Reservation, the disenfranchisement of Americans with felony convictions and much, much more.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL: THE WAR ON OUR CIVIL LIBERTIES (Nonny de la Pena) An exploration of how the Patriot Act has altered the checks and balances on law enforcement and the effect these changes are having on the civil liberties of all Americans.

UNCOVERED: THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT THE IRAQ WAR (Robert Greenwald) An examination of the Bush administration's case for war through interviews with U.S intelligence and defense officials, foreign service experts and U.N. weapons inspectors.

UNPRECEDENTED: THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (Joan Sekler and Richard Ray Perez) The riveting story of the battle for the presidency in Florida and the status of democracy in America.

2004 has marked the beginning of a new era in the use of political films. More political films than ever before are being shown in theaters this year, with "Fahrenheit 9/11" leading the pack with roughly $118 million in box office sales so far, but many theater chains around the country have refused to show such films. The Internet has taken up the slack, giving citizens greater access to these political films, and filmmakers better access to the public. MoveOn's pioneering "house party" efforts with such films as Robert Greenwald's "Outfoxed" and "Uncovered" reversed the traditional film release sequence, with each selling more than 100,000 copies online before being released in movie theaters.

"This is absolutely a sign that the traditional models for film distribution need to – and will – change," said Browne from his Brooklyn apartment. "We pulled off Imagine with close to no money because it was truly a grassroots effort, and then we got such a great response, that we've basically become a clearinghouse for all kinds of groups that want to make sure people see these films before they vote."

Groups from Ohio to Florida, from Colorado to New Hampshire and more are signed up for the initial launch, and will then pass on their "festival-in-a-box" care packages to other groups currently signing up. The tour kicks off at such locations as the University of Cincinnati, the Miami-Dade Public Libary, the University of Colorado-Boulder and with various peace and justice groups in New Hampshire. Organizers hope that this historic, grassroots tour will reach thousands of citizens before election day.

"Artists and producers across the country are coming together to make their voices heard and to share their vision for the future," said Chris Wangro, co-founder and co-executive producer of the Imagine Festival. "This is one of the most important elections in history and we're thrilled to be able to give all Americans the opportunity to see these extraordinary films which take a hard look at the issues that both the mainstream media and the candidates have overlooked."

The group's non-profit status does not allow for films which advocate for a particular candidate or party. "We just hope the tour connects citizens to films that they can use to inform, inspire and organize," said Browne.

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