Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: American Empire: An Act of Collective Madness

When Woodrow Wilson is a villain in your movie, viewer beware!

Dec 11, 2012

-By Eric Monder


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1369068-American_Empire_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

What is supposed to be a radical-left film, American Empire: An Act of Collective Madness comes across at first as a right-wing tract. Why? Because filmmaker Patrea Patrick’s opening message about the evils of the Federal Reserve sounds as loopy as the utterances from the Republican Party candidates during the last general election primaries. (Does anyone remember Gov. Rick Perry threatening to assault Fed Chair Ben Bernanke?) Late in the documentary, we even hear one interviewee bellow, “We need to take our country back!” While this doesn’t mean we should ignore the film’s other research or the individual views of some of the other on-camera speakers, it does mean that most audiences will reject American Empire out of hand.

Not to be confused with at least one other recent film with a similar title, American Empire begins by tracing the history of tax policy stemming from the Federal Reserve Act. Patrick, who directed, photographed, edited, co-wrote and co-produced this seriously low-budget project, then makes the case that America has become an empire thanks to the corporations that run Washington via lobby power. Though this part of Patrick’s argument is not new, it at least makes sense and was at the heart of the 99% protests of last year.

But Patrick’s implications contain a central flaw: If we accept the fact that there is only a plutocracy in charge and that there are no differences between the two major political parties, then why should anyone left-of-center be at all pleased that Barack Obama was re-elected? According to Patrick, we shouldn’t be pleased—Mitt Romney would have been just as good or bad. But didn’t this thinking lead liberals to getting George W. Bush in 2000?

Patrick and some of her on-camera subjects, a mix of the erudite and the obnoxious, including Tariq Ali, Vandana Shiva, G. Edward Griffin, Maude Barlow, John Perkins, Gerald Celente, Jeffrey Smith, John Robbins and David Korten, seem to suggest that we need a Ralph Nadar type (along with a Facebook revolution) to lead us out of this predicament. No, Nadar isn’t interviewed or even mentioned (Patrick is smarter than to do that), but her film would make a great p.r. promotion piece for the next Nadar.

Patrick is correct about nearly all her concerns—insecticides poisoning our food (an outgrowth of the mega-farming industry), the health risks of genetically modified foods, oil dependency—but her implied solution is the problem. No Nadar type will ever be elected President and it is foolish to think one will. Electing—and putting public pressure on—liberal Democrats is a much more practical and immediate way to achieve the kind of sociopolitical and economic change American Empire so desires.

Back to Woodrow Wilson. Sure, Wilson had his flaws (and approving the Federal Reserve Act may or may not have been one of them), but he was an admirably liberal U.S. President. It seems downright ignorant in the post-Bush age to equate Wilson with the kind of right-wing failures we’ve experienced through the years, and the film’s section about creating a revolution comes across as quaint.

Sorry to say, while raising issues worth discussing—and some of the alarmism is valid—American Empire: An Act of Collective Madness allies itself with a dubious way to address these matters.


Film Review: American Empire: An Act of Collective Madness

When Woodrow Wilson is a villain in your movie, viewer beware!

Dec 11, 2012

-By Eric Monder


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1369068-American_Empire_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

What is supposed to be a radical-left film, American Empire: An Act of Collective Madness comes across at first as a right-wing tract. Why? Because filmmaker Patrea Patrick’s opening message about the evils of the Federal Reserve sounds as loopy as the utterances from the Republican Party candidates during the last general election primaries. (Does anyone remember Gov. Rick Perry threatening to assault Fed Chair Ben Bernanke?) Late in the documentary, we even hear one interviewee bellow, “We need to take our country back!” While this doesn’t mean we should ignore the film’s other research or the individual views of some of the other on-camera speakers, it does mean that most audiences will reject American Empire out of hand.

Not to be confused with at least one other recent film with a similar title, American Empire begins by tracing the history of tax policy stemming from the Federal Reserve Act. Patrick, who directed, photographed, edited, co-wrote and co-produced this seriously low-budget project, then makes the case that America has become an empire thanks to the corporations that run Washington via lobby power. Though this part of Patrick’s argument is not new, it at least makes sense and was at the heart of the 99% protests of last year.

But Patrick’s implications contain a central flaw: If we accept the fact that there is only a plutocracy in charge and that there are no differences between the two major political parties, then why should anyone left-of-center be at all pleased that Barack Obama was re-elected? According to Patrick, we shouldn’t be pleased—Mitt Romney would have been just as good or bad. But didn’t this thinking lead liberals to getting George W. Bush in 2000?

Patrick and some of her on-camera subjects, a mix of the erudite and the obnoxious, including Tariq Ali, Vandana Shiva, G. Edward Griffin, Maude Barlow, John Perkins, Gerald Celente, Jeffrey Smith, John Robbins and David Korten, seem to suggest that we need a Ralph Nadar type (along with a Facebook revolution) to lead us out of this predicament. No, Nadar isn’t interviewed or even mentioned (Patrick is smarter than to do that), but her film would make a great p.r. promotion piece for the next Nadar.

Patrick is correct about nearly all her concerns—insecticides poisoning our food (an outgrowth of the mega-farming industry), the health risks of genetically modified foods, oil dependency—but her implied solution is the problem. No Nadar type will ever be elected President and it is foolish to think one will. Electing—and putting public pressure on—liberal Democrats is a much more practical and immediate way to achieve the kind of sociopolitical and economic change American Empire so desires.

Back to Woodrow Wilson. Sure, Wilson had his flaws (and approving the Federal Reserve Act may or may not have been one of them), but he was an admirably liberal U.S. President. It seems downright ignorant in the post-Bush age to equate Wilson with the kind of right-wing failures we’ve experienced through the years, and the film’s section about creating a revolution comes across as quaint.

Sorry to say, while raising issues worth discussing—and some of the alarmism is valid—American Empire: An Act of Collective Madness allies itself with a dubious way to address these matters.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

May in the Summer
Film Review: May in the Summer

Jordanian brides, their sisters, difficult moms and diffident men would seem to have a lot in common with Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl and other WASP princesses with their own predictable white-gown blues in countless rom-coms. More »

To be Takei
Film Review: To Be Takei

The kaleidoscopic life of the Enterprise's chauffeur—an Asian and gay showbiz pioneer—is explored in this entertaining but diffuse documentary. More »

K2: Siren of the Himalayas
Film Review: K2: Siren of the Himalayas

Mountaineering documentary follows an expedition to K2 in the Himalayas. More »

The Possession of Michael King
Film Review: The Possession of Michael King

All unhappy families may be unhappy in their own way, but movies about possession/exorcism tend to a numbing sameness. That said, The Possession of Michael King, yet another "found footage" frightener, whips up some creepy moments and features a strong performance by Shane Johnson as the atheist who makes the mistake of daring the Devil to prove he's not just another bogeyman. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here