The Chicago Reader came out with an article today about the Show Me Social Justice International Film Festival held in Warrensburg, Missouri on September 10-12, 2010. The content is, shall we say, interesting. Representative Denny Hoskins (r-noun, verb, CPA) rates a mugshot. Show Me Progress gets a mention. The writer, Michael Miner, spoke with me for about a half hour over the phone this past weekend. More on that later.
A postcard promoting a panel discussion associated with the Show Me Social Justice International Film Festival.
On Tuesday evening I had a conversation with filmmaker Ky Dickens, who had her film, Fish Out of Water, entered in the film festival:
Show Me Progress: …Why did you come to Warrensburg for a, for a film festival?
Ky Dickens: Well, I think a few reasons. You know, Fish Out of Water, the entire point is to bring the messages in that film to places that might not have access to LGBT, LGBT community centers or, um, or even LGBT friendly churches. There’s a lot of information in the film that, that can really be, I think, helpful to people that are, are in regions of the country that, that have diminished because of their sexuality. Or allies of people that have felt diminished because of their LGBT friends and families. So, for me, the most critical thing is to go to smaller towns even more so than bigger cities.
Show Me Progress: So, in, in a way the, the goal is education.
Ky Dickens: Absolutely. And the goal of the film is to get people to think for themself. I mean, we present a contextual view of these Bible passages that are typically used to condemn gays and lesbians. And we talk to great scholars [inaudible, all of them are heterosexual, and, you know, theologians and ministers around the country. And, what they say about these Bible passages is really compelling. It sheds a lot of light on the translations of the text as well as the context in which these passages were written. And, you know, we’re not trying to get people to believe one way is right or one way is wrong, but just to think for themself…
…Show Me Progress: Yeah, and, and how did you feel your film was received in, in Warrensburg, by the audience?
Ky Dickens: I thought it was received really well. In fact, there’s two things that stuck out in my mind. One was a woman who raised her hand and said, listen, I came to this film tonight only because I read about the scandal and I thought, wow, this doesn’t come to Warrensburg that often, I should go check it out. She was there with here with husband. And she said, this is so refreshing to have this dialogue even happening here. And, so I thought that was a nice comment, ’cause she said, I don’t really know, I just thought the Bible said it was wrong and that’s what I grew up thinking, but it was worth coming and checking out something different. And she said that she felt really inspired by it. And that was a nice comment. Another thing that was really, um, beautiful to share, it was, there was, um, a grandma of a, of a, her granddaughter is transgendered. And she was talking to me after the panel that we had regarding the film topic. And she said, listen, you know, my granddaughter is transgendered and my daughter is not that accepting of it but I go out of my way to make sure that she feels comfortable dressing how she wants to dress and being who she is and it feels nice to feel validated in my, that I’m not doing something totally wrong. And it, this topic, this discussion is [inaudible] making me feel that, that my support of my granddaughter is justified. So, even just those two comments I think make it worth it, you know.
Show Me Progress: So, so, in a, in a, a bigger sort of sense, a view of the film festival that really was what the entire film festival was about.
Ky Dickens: Well, from what I understand a lot of the articles written at least for the festival, a lot of the publicity, yeah, was around Fish Out of Water and the corresponding panel that had to do with it. [….] That it seems….from what I gathered when I got there that, that was sort of, um, it kind of overpowered the entire festival…
Show Me Progress: ….When you did get here, um, how did you, um, how were you apprised of the, sort of, the funding controversy?
Ky Dickens: You know, I really appreciate it because the festival was very, um, very sensitive about keeping it kind of quiet for me until all the events were over. Which is nice, because when you’re talking about something controversial it’s scary if you know that there’s a lot of controversy surrounding it, even though it’s controversial in and of itself. Um, but it’s always a little bit, it knocks your confidence a bit if you’re walking into something that feels really heated. And it wasn’t until after my film screened that people were sort of like, yeah, so this funding issue’s happening. And I heard bits and pieces, but I didn’t know until after that, that people were saying it was because of our film and our panel.
Show Me Progress: …And, and, so, you had people that, that, uh, sort of articulated that, that it, it really was about the, the film and the panel that sort of put a target on, on the festival?
Ky Dickens: Yes. [….] From what I gathered, from what I actually heard from people down there, not just staff or workers or coll, people that worked at the university, but also people attending the festival that there was an article in the Warrensburg Star and another one in the Kansas City Star, I believe, that, that was a pretty big article with a big picture and, and one of the lines, I believe, in the advertisement around the panel said, a film that looks at the misinterpretation on homosexuality. And it was that that started the fire.
Show Me Progress: …What mystifies people is, was this [the funding controversy] something done for political purposes, uh, social purposes? [crosstalk] Or what?
Ky Dickens: Uh, hmm. Yeah.
Yeah, I think it’s interesting ’cause, you know, everything I heard when I got down there was that there, I think the article that was published in the Star was on the ninth. It was big, it was almost a full page. And that night that, that a, uh, the Source picked up and, and wrote a scathing thing about Fish Out of Water and about a liberal film fest. And from there, um, you know, I think the lieutenant governor [Peter Kinder (r)] and someone else, and that Unite[d] Missouri, whatever started Twittering about a liberal film fest, liberal film fest. And, and then from then the messaging was changed from what I see as the violation of First Amendment to oh wait, it could have been used for education or something, you know, almost a covering of tracks for their real intentions.
Show Me Progress: ….Do you encounter this environment at, at every place you show or enter the film?
Ky Dickens: Not every place, but definitely when we go to smaller towns. I mean, there’s people who are upset [inaudible]. What’s interesting is Fish Out of Water got more coverage, I think, than any other film in the festival at, at this particular, in this particular city. And it seemed that that coverage and the broad amount of that [inaudible] as the festival being aligned with this one film and this one message. And because of that it, it seemed to really take center stage. And, and I think in this case blew up, you know. Um, otherwise at, people will come to the film and maybe protest or say something, you know, on Q and A or if they don’t agree or upset or coming they’re to speak the other side. And that’s fine, you know, expected. I understand the nature of the film. It’s controversial. Uh, but this has been, by far, the biggest blow up.
Show Me Progress: About the film, uh.
Ky Dickens: About the film and about, and about its presence in the community.
Show Me Progress: ….There are people politically who are opposed the stimulus in any fashion, shape or form. Whether it be for roads and bridges or, you know, education, or, you know, helping poor people or a film festival. It doesn’t matter, you know [crosstalk]…
Ky Dickens: Um, hmm.
Show Me Progress: …they don’t care, they’re just against it, uh.
Ky Dickens: Right.
Show Me Progress: But, what’s interesting to me is, uh, individuals in, in the political establishment who take that and try to do something with it, you know [crosstalk]…
Ky Dickens: Right.
Show Me Progress: It’s a, it becomes a tool, uh, and, and to me that’s a fascinating part of this story.
Ky Dickens: Yeah, yeah. Well, and, and that’s exactly what I think is going on here, is people are against the stimulus for various political reasons and this was a perfect thing to latch on to in order to kind of fire up the base since you’re able to point to the fact that a [inaudible] may be against the key values of a certain constituency I think you can drum up a heated emotional response against all stimulus funding.
Show Me Progress: Do you, do you have any comments you’d like to add?
Ky Dickens: Um, well, I think that sometimes the biggest threat to a bad idea is better ideas. And, you know, it’s, it’s new ideas, it’s new ways of looking at things that keep democracy and keep societies, um, vibrant and, and evolving. And what seems to happen, happened in Warrensburg was a clash of ideas and I think that’s a sad place when our democracy doesn’t allow for, for new ideas or possibly opposing ideas to flourish, especially in places where people might be, be craving information that’s outside of what they’ve always been told.
Show Me Progress: …Well, thank you very much for your time.
Ky Dickens: Absolutely…
Back to the Chicago Reader article. Quoting an opponent of the film festival:
…I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with the leader of the Johnson County Patriots of the Republic, Jeff Merrick, a Warrensburg Baptist pastor….”We didn’t care if the festival went on-and it did. It’s just an improper use of ARRA money…”
Oh, please. These folks consider the entire stimulus (ARRA) an improper use of money. Has anyone seriously disputed the positive economic impact of the arts and a film festival in particular on a small community?
And then a familiar name comes up:
…It’s hard to say what triggered the uprising. Representative Hoskins heard that someone from the festival spoke to the Rotary Club that Tuesday and some Rotarians didn’t like what they heard. Merrick tells me a local woman he wouldn’t identify spotted a billboard for the festival that mentioned ARRA funding and reported it to United for Missouri, a three-month-old foe of the “Owebama administration” that’s run by former Republican legislator Carl Bearden and is committed to “mobilizing citizens” around and against federal economic policy. Bearden gave Merrick a heads up…
Calling Carl Bearden a “former republican legislator” is like calling the iceberg that sank the Titanic an ice cube.
From Show Me Progress on September 7, 2010:
…the State Dire[c]tor of the Missouri branch of Americans for Prosperity (AFP-MO) until his resignation in July, has been none other than one-time speaker Pro Tem of the Missouri House, Carl Bearden. The term-limited Bearden resigned prematurely from the House shortly after being accused of ethical lapses. He immediately joined the lobbying firm Pelopidas LLC, or as Bearden put it, an “influence management firm” in which he would play a “main role.”
When Bearden joined Pelopidas, he also he also “officially became the lobbyist for retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield,” a major Pelopidas client whose hobby is trying to buy Missouri’s government. Sinquefield, via Pelopidas, has focused on gutting public education and cutting taxes for the wealthy in Missouri, goals not incompatible with the Kochs. Consequently, it’s not surprising that the AFP-MO, under the leadership of Pelopidas’ Bearden, has used Pelopidas’ “grassroots and coalition building” services. One cannot be blamed for concluding that Carl Bearden unites the wider goals of the Kochs with Sinquefield’s specifically Missouri focus…
As for the grassroots – from Show Me Progress on June 19, 2009:
In blogtopia (y, sctp!) “astroturf” is the terminology applied to fake political grassroots activity.
I opened up my local paper this afternoon (The Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal) and had the rare privilege to read a rather lengthy letter to the editor by Carl Bearden, representing himself as the state director of Americans for Prosperity Missouri, attacking the Employee Free Choice Act.
Carl Bearden, Carl Bearden? Where have I seen that name before? Oh, yes:
AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY AND FOUNDATION
912 EAST BROADWAY
COLUMBIA MO 65201
573-256-1322 A 11/9/2007
912 EAST BROADWAY, SUITE 207
COLUMBIA MO 65201
573-256-1322 A 7/19/2007
THE BROWN LOBBY FIRM, LLC
912 EAST BROADWAY, SUITE 208
COLUMBIA MO 65201
314-540-5515 A 8/2/2007
Hey, they’re all neighbors! Or do you think it’s like one of those mailbox drop places?
So, if Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union can be called a “union boss” in a letter to the editor, don’t you think that Carl Bearden should be identified as a “connected republican lobbyist” in that same editorial page?…
Who has an agenda and who is pulling the strings?
It must be nice work that pays really well plying useful idiots with wedge issues so they’ll work against their own interests to help out millionaires and billionaires….
Suppose you held a film festival and right wingnuts didn’t want anyone to attend (September 10, 2010)
The show must go on (September 10, 2010)
Veto Session Reviews for Rep. Denny Hoskins (r): great potental for a Razzie (September 15, 2010)
Rep. Denny Hoskins (r) and the Film Festival: demagoguery, not oversight (September 18, 2010)
Rep. Denny Hoskins (r) and the Film Festival: that was then, this is now (September 20, 2010)
Rep. Denny Hoskins (r) and the Film Festival: no one knew about it… (September 21, 2010)
A short film about a film festival… (September 22, 2010)