Category Archives: video

The School Closure Playbook

Yesterday Jacobin Magazine published “The School Closure Playbook,” a film essay I directed about Chicago’s decision to shut down forty-nine public schools in 2013:

This piece is adapted from two essays from Jacobin’sClass Action” handbook, Kenzo Shibata’s “Disaster Capitalism, Chicago Style” and Joanne Barkan’s “How Mega-Foundations Threaten Public Education.” It features original cinematography by Katrina Ohstrom; music by Rob Warmowski of the San Andreas Fault; and video journalism by Kai-Duc Luong, Heather Stone, and John Sheehan. This project also owes a tremendous debt to BBC filmmaker Adam Curtis, in ways which will be obvious to anyone familiar with his work (and that saying about imitation and flattery).

As I write this, Chicago is about an hour away from deciding whether to re-elect mayor Rahm Emanuel. If he receives less than 50% of the vote in today’s election, there will be a run-off in April. Responsible for appointing both the CEO and school board, Emanuel exercises enormous control over the city’s public schools. His policies of school closures and privatization have had devastating effects on Chicago’s children, yet are being replicated in districts around the country.

This is perhaps the most depressing film I have ever worked on, but also the most hopeful. The soul-crushing hours spent listening to people like Eli Broad and Milton Friedman were more than matched by the inspiration of watching speeches by people like Karen Lewis, Asean Johnson (seriously, watch this!), and Jitu Brown. They represent just a few of the many parents, teachers, students and community members who are working tirelessly around the country, at the genuine grassroots, to bring democracy and justice to public education.

This project showed me that there are real heroes in America today. You may not often hear about them in the media, but you could find them outside in the cold today, knocking on doors in Chicago to get out the vote for an #ElectedBoardNow. And last week you could find them occupying absentee, Christie-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson’s offices in Newark, NJ to demand local control of their schools.

If you are interested in learning more, joining forces, or perhaps sharing some of that green stuff that gets posters printed, GOTV vans filled with gas, and films made, here are some resources:

Watch MONICA: THE MINI-SERIES

Monica: The Mini-Series imagines Monica Lewinsky’s life in 2001 – when she was 27 and living in New York City.

Directed by my talented friend Doron Max Hagay & perfectly cast, Monica is a compassionate exploration of a woman sacrificed to our media’s pathetic obsession with sex, trying to make a life for herself in a society that gleefully condemns a young woman while forgiving and even victimizing arguably the most powerful man in the world at the time. Sympathetic & hilarious — and totally free on the internet — do not miss Monica.

New Adam Curtis: Bitter Lake

I have got hold of the unedited rushes of almost everything the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan. It is thousands of hours – some of it is very dull, but large parts of it are extraordinary. Shots that record amazing moments, but also others that are touching, funny and sometimes very odd.

These complicated, fragmentary and emotional images evoke the chaos of real experience. And out of them i have tried to build a different and more emotional way of depicting what really happened in Afghanistan.

Support the TIF Illumination Video Project

The TIF Illumination Project is a volunteer-run investigative journalism & community education project that has done incredible work exposing one of Chicago’s most vile and complicated scams, Tax Increment Financing. TIF has resulted in the redistribution of billions of dollars away from local communities and into the coffers of developers and cronies. Please help the TIF Illumination Project produce this important video series to bring the fruits of their research to a wider audience:

Wendell Berry: “To be patient in an emergency is a terrible trial”

I watched this interview with Wendell Berry a couple weeks ago, and my thoughts continue to return to this one quote:

Well, you’ve put me in the place I’m always winding up in and…that is to say well we’ve acknowledged that the problems are big, now where’s the big solution? When you ask the question what is the big answer, then you’re implying that we can impose the answer. But that’s the problem we’re in to start with, we’ve tried to impose the answers. The answers will come not from walking up to your farm and saying this is what I want and this is what I expect from you. You walk up and you say what do you need. And you commit yourself to say all right, I’m not going to do any extensive damage here until I know what it is that you are asking of me. And this can’t be hurried. This is the dreadful situation that young people are in. I think of them and I say well, the situation you’re in now is a situation that’s going to call for a lot of patience. And to be patient in an emergency is a terrible trial.

— Wendell Berry

via Full Show: Wendell Berry, Poet & Prophet.