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Orwell Rolls in His Grave
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by Chris Parry

"This movie will depress the hell out of you. But that's a good thing."
4 stars

Here we go again, Parry is about to roll off another politically charged review of a documentary that you just have to see, and half the audience will note it down for future reference and the other half will call it 'liberal propaganda'. Look people, I've been to more film festivals this past year than I could count without going into the records, and at those festivals I've seen, again, more documentaries railing against the Bush government than I could be bothered to tally. Why is this? Were there so many documentaries against Clinton, or Bush Sr? Did Reagan have an onslaught of documentarians bringing harsh facts to light every other week? Not as I recall, which leads me to think of two possible reasons. One, that documentarians are all left-wing commies with an intense need to make anti-Bush films, or two, documentarians are researchers, readers and thinkers, who look past the flag-waving and intense desire to fill up the SUV and have found that this Bush government has the worst record of any government in US history. When it comes to the way the Bush government has hijacked the media, or rather, how the media has allowed itself to be acquiesced, nothing I have read, seen or heard of tells the story, the whole story and nothing but the straight hard story as well as Orwell Rolls in his Grave.

This stuff is fairly complex, but let me put it to you really simple. The Bush family, both daddy and junior, used to be on a board of directors of a Texas company with the guy who runs ClearChannel Communications. ClearChannel once owned almost 200 radio stations. When the radio industry was deregulated, ClearChannel bought up radio station after radio station, until now it owns over 1200. It owns over 60% of all rock stations in the USA. In some towns, it owns as many as eight stations, most of which have no local on-air talent. Musical artists have regularly complained that if they refuse to go on ClearChannel sponsored concert tours, their music won't be heard on American radio. When local disasters have happened in some parts of the country, calls to ClearChannel's local radio stations to ask them to report on the incidents have remained unanswered, because the stations are unmanned, being 'DJed from headquarters'. In the meantime, advertising rates have skyrocketed, because ClearChannel owns a near monopoly in many cities and advertisers are allegedly told that if they don't want to advertise on multiple ClearChannel's stations, they're flat out of luck.

Why this matters is the first thing I mentioned about ClearChannel - that they have business contacts with the Bush family. When nobody thought Bush Jr had a chance in hell of getting the Republican nomination for President over the much more popular John McCain, ClearChannel commentators pounded the hell out of McCain and raised Bush to golden boy status, with syndicated ClearChannel voices like Rush Limbaugh adding to the scrum. Next thing you know, Bush gets the nomination.

Later, as Bush was telling us all that we should go to war and search for weapons of mass destruction, ClearChannel was holding 'patriotism rallies' around the country, telling their on-air talent that they 'had' to be there, and even going so far as to burn Dixie Chicks CDs after one of the band had said she was ashamed of being from the same state as Bush. More recently, when Howard Stern started saying Bush was owned by religious lobbyists, ClearChannel kicked his show from it's network.

Clearly, ClearChannel likes George Bush Jr. And if George Bush's government has its way, ClearChannel will soon be able to buy into the TV business. That's right, owning Fox News and telling CBS what it can and can not show isn't enough - now Bush and the FCC (run by Colin Powell's son) wants to deregulate TV and create the same monopoly there that ClearChannel enjoys on the airwaves of radio.

Which is where Orwell Rolls in his Grave slams any thinking viewer. This is not by any stretch a well-funded documentary. It's poorly shot, the editing choices leave something to be desired, and the relation to George Orwell's 1984 gets old real fast. But that doesn't mean it's a weak outing. It's not slick like Michael Moore's efforts, it isn't introspective like Errol Morris' work, and it sure isn't comedy at the expense of history like Nick Broomfield's features. No, this is a new beast, and perhaps the most effective of all of them; this is the facts put forth in a manner that will make your blood run cold.

You don't need to be a Bush-hater to see this documentary. In fact, though the filmmaker certainly has his own feelings on the matter (and narrates those feelings throughout), what really tells the story here is the disturbing footage of FCC hearings into whether or not the rules will be changed to let fewer companies own more of the media. To anyone with a grade school education, this is something that CAN NOT be good for the nation, yet Powell's boy and his well-lobbied cohorts are doing everything they can to make that change take place.

And as filmmaker Robert Kane Pappas documents consistently and matter of factly, the current situation with the mass corporate media deciding what news we're allowed to see is already way out of control, even without such rule alterations.

The cornerstone of a free nation is a free press. When the press no longer reports on the government because it's in the press' corporate interests to not rock the boat, we, the people, have no means of protecting ourselves from corruption, no means of knowing who we can safely vote for, and no means of properly taking part in a democratic society. Orwell Rolls in his Grave shows that the sell-out of democracy has begun in earnest, from the top down, and that those whose job it once was to report on that sell-out have now become duplicitous with the destruction of all that took centuries to build.

And lest you think that this is all about Democrats beating on Republicans, guess again. There are people interviewed in this documentary that were not only deep in the Republican movement for many years, but now claim they regret their actions while being a part of that machine. Their accounts are not just amazing, they're devastating.

So often a documentary tells a few stories that make the audience go 'ooh', but fails to package it all in a way that will make anyone actually take action. Orwell Rolls in his Grave is a different beast; it retells everything that I've heard over the last four years about how this government has pulled the rug out from under the civil freedoms that countless thousands have died for in one sweeping parade of malfeasance that is guaranteed to make your head hurt and teeth gnash. It isn't a partisan spray for the converted, it's an incredible collection of documentation and first hand testimony as to what is happening to us behind our backs - and under our noses. It depressed me for two days straight, and it is essential viewing for anyone who gives a damn about their country.

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originally posted: 03/27/04 12:52:53
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Slamdance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
This film is listed in our political documentary series. For more in the Political Documentary series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Leeds Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Leeds Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/27/06 datsgor Thought provoking..inspires one to question what they "thought" they knew. Or were "told". 4 stars
9/15/04 Victor I. Scherb Entertaining, scary, and very informative. 5 stars
8/07/04 Isa Should be shown in educational institutions and on Prime Time TV 5 stars
7/17/04 Barry Gommersall a must see for everyone 5 stars
7/17/04 von From a filmmaking standard, it lacks. As a precautionary tale, it should be seen. 4 stars
7/06/04 Nathan Babb Aewsome, you must see this film, it is a revelation 5 stars
6/16/04 Yver everyone should see this. history in the making. 5 stars
5/25/04 Miguel Josua decent film 4 stars
5/11/04 Robert Schiller An important, thought provoking film. The entire country should see it. 5 stars
4/28/04 James John Required viewing for citizens prior to voter registratio; from republican finance executive 5 stars
4/24/04 Mark W. Raises valid questions- worth seeing 5 stars
4/20/04 jesse m goldman magnificent !!! 5 stars
3/27/04 buddy garrett a very disappointing film 2 stars
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  DVD: 07-Jun-2005



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