Something's up. On Sunday and Monday nights, in the midst of the exhausting run-up to the holidays, hundreds of people braved the cold to watch a political documentary. At Helios Coffee in Raleigh, they had to add showings, and some sat out in the cold and watched through windows. The upstairs library at Ringside in Durham was packed. And at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, the line snaked out the door, down the steps and all the way to the street.
They came out to see Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, a national phenomenon. The Independent sponsored the Carolina Theatre showing, and we expected maybe 100 people in the 275-seat screening room. Instead, more than 600 people showed up, and the theatre, which co-sponsored, was generous enough to let us add a second showing. More incredible: 250 people waited.
Why? The movie, which has been described as part documentary, part political ad, doesn't break new ground. It is very good, however, at juxtaposing clips of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz and company making outrageous statements about imminent threats from Iraqi chemical and nuclear weapons and following them with interviews with diplomats and spies who show conclusively that the administration had to know it was lying. In these days of Ashcroft justice, that's entertainment.
But it doesn't explain why so many people felt so compelled to turn out. A hint came in discussions after the showing. We're people starved for an effective presentation of this kind of information--the truth.
"The war has got a lot of people puzzled, and they're not getting answers in the mainstream press," says Art Howard, one of the organizers of the Helios showing. "So they're looking at alternative ways."
It also was a way for people of like-minds to meet each other. The publicity for some showings was done through MoveOn.org, a virtual community that doesn't offer many opportunities for face-to-face discussion, Howard says.
But one other reason was evident: People are desperately looking for a way to channel their anger and concern. They want to find ways to help their countrymen understand the depths of the calculated cynicism of this administration, and to mobilize them to defeat Bush in November. In our discussions after both Carolina Theatre showings, the dominant theme was how we can use this film, and this information, to defeat Bush. Various candidates were touted, but there was agreement that supporters of all Democratic candidates must rally behind the nominee.
Rania Masri, a thrilling speaker from the Institute for Southern Studies, barraged the crowd with facts on the American occupation (the U.S. is allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of Iraqi companies, 100 percent of profits to be removed from the country, and no union organizing) and its consequences (increasing hostility as long as we're there).
But the audience was most interested in knowing what we could do to get the message to more people. Some wanted to get the film on network television. Others wanted it shown at the Democratic National Convention. At The Independent, we'll do what we can to help. More showings of Uncovered are in the works, both in Raleigh and Durham. Stay tuned. Or you can order a copy at www.truthuncovered.com.
And Masri's answer was to do more of what some are already doing: grassroots organizing. It has made Howard Dean a powerful front-runner in the primaries. It must then be used to make the Democratic nominee a winner in November.