Local venues show controversial political films

The films gain popularity as November election approaches.
Sunday, August 29, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:57 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

In an election year, politics is everywhere, and this includes the movies. And after the controversial success of "Fahrenheit 9/11," the pace of political-film releases has quickened.

"The Corporation," which opened Wednesday at the Ragtag Cinemacafé, is the latest in a string of such political films released this year.

This is the Ragtag's second showing of the film this year. The theater has often been a venue to showcase films of this nature, most recently including "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War" and "High-jacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear, and the Selling of the American Empire."

Paul Sturtz, who is in charge of booking films and is the theater's co-founder, explains the current popularity of political films as an interaction of several factors.

"I think that everything's been coming to a head," he said, "the dissatisfaction with Bush, the dissatisfaction of the media's coverage over the last few years and the flowering of documentary film."

Sturtz said he believes political films have the potential to influence public opinion.

"There's no doubt that it strengthens the base of people who agree with the sentiments of the films," he said. "A film like 'Fahrenheit 9/11' had the potential to bring an audience to the theater that usually wouldn't have the opportunity to see those views expressed."

Ragtag patron Susanna Curran said she would like to think political films have the ability to sway election results.

"A lot of people saw 'Fahrenheit 9/11' because it was in all the movie theaters," she said. "I would like to think these films influence people, but sometimes I think it's just preaching to the choir."

Another patron of the theater, Amanda Broz, said she thinks the recent political-movie trend has been an effective way to disseminate important information to the public.

"Many people haven't heard the information before because they watch mainstream media all the time," she said. "It's different hearing personal stories and seeing devastation and not having it be so abstract."

Ninth Street Video is another venue where political films are available for viewing. Many films that are played at the Ragtag can later be rented there after they leave theaters.

Bill Bellinghausen, who works at Ninth Street Video, said there has been a definite increase in political films released in the last year and in the number of customers who come to the store to rent them.

"Our customers are typically a little more to the left and want to see things of this nature," Bellinghausen said. "We share the same patrons as Ragtag and carry some things out of the mainstream."

Although Ragtag has shown many controversial films, Columbia residents have never negatively responded, Sturtz said.

"We've never shown a film that's gotten an overt protest," he said. "We've tried, but we've never gotten one."

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