America’s Most Progressive Filmmaker

Robert Greenwald. Photo: Sam Smith (CC)

Robert Greenwald. Photo: Sam Smith (CC)

And the award goes to… Robert Greenwald! Okay, so I just created an award out of thin air, but Greenwald is more prolific and arguably more successful in changing attitudes and policy than the other leading candidate for such an award, Michael Moore. Jeffrey Fleishman profiles Greenwald for the Los Angeles Times:

In an old, whitewashed motel, where folklore has it studio executives once brought their secretaries for “lunch,” Robert Greenwald, a mercurial man trailed by insults and death threats, leads a small band of filmmakers dedicated to unnerving political and corporate powers with righteous anger and quick-cut editing.

Greenwald embodies the populism of George Bailey and the sly delight of a spy handed a secret dossier. His Brave New Films has skewered Wal-Mart, Fox News (Bill O’Reilly despises him) and the conservative politics of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. Greenwald’s narratives have criticized the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and his latest documentary condemns the Obama administration’s drone program for killing civilians in Pakistan and other countries in a misguided strategy to combat terror.

Much of the American public is unaware of what’s going on, “and sadly there’s a bipartisan national security state dedicated to making sure we don’t find out,” said Greenwald. “If you’re losing your house or you don’t have a job or you’re trying to get your kid through school, the global challenges are generally the ones you don’t feel equipped to take on…. That’s one of the pleasures and joys of this work, to get up every day and work on telling these stories.”

Brave New Films is a muckraking voice in a digital age of nano-second consumption. The company produces videos and graphics, time-releasing them on the Internet while also stitching them into full-length documentaries. This guerrilla style is aimed at creating buzz in progressive circles that at times ripples into the mainstream. The trick, said Greenwald, is staying ahead of the political curve to influence national discourse over anxieties as varied as healthcare,Wall Street and prisons for profit.

“Greenwald’s a major advocacy figure on the left,” said Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Media and Social Impact at American University’s School of Communication. “Brave New Films is not pretending to be nuanced, and it’s not pretending to make great art … Greenwald’s intent is to engage people to take some kind of action. He’s relentlessly experimental.”

The son of psychologists, Greenwald, who once made feature and television movies, including “The Burning Bed” with Farrah Fawcett, often mentions “connecting the dots” with human tales spliced with facts. His team of about 25 mostly young disciples, who have the air of vagabond travelers camped behind motel doors, scour the Web for research, scroll Twitter, Vine and Instagram, and figure out how to raise money. Greenwald’s Culver City office is a small universe of movie posters and pictures of Albert Einstein and Abbie Hoffman.

With a mission to upend the conventional narrative, the company’s films are often unabashedly polemical. They have emboldened the already converted but have alienated many conservatives and may be considered too didactic to take hold among wider audiences, especially given limited distribution. The films resemble the brashness and passion of Michael Moore’s documentaries but have limited production flourishes and have yet to penetrate a broader national consciousness…

[continues at the Los Angeles Times]

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  • Oginikwe

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve seen nearly all of his documentaries and never knew who made them. I like that he cites his sources and that I can go them and see how he derived his information.
    I wish Greenwald a very long and prosperous life.

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