Live from Cannes: Two More Russo Reviews

varietydb2.jpgWe reported the standing ovation Aaron Russo received at the Cannes Film Festival. I’ve now seen the first two mainstream (as opposed to freedom movement) reviews of his documentary. I’ll let digitalBURG
provide some of the background

Russo, who is best known as the producer of feature films including “The Rose” starring Bette Midler and “Trading Places” starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, wrote, produced, and directed the film.
“I am disgusted by the direction America was heading,” says Russo. “I made this movie because I want to live in a free country and I want my kids and grandkids to live in a free country. The American people must abandon the myth that America is still the land of liberty that it once was.”
Through interviews with U.S. Congressmen, as well the former IRS Commissioner, former IRS and FBI agents, tax attorneys and authors, Russo attempts to provethat there is no law requiring citizens to pay a direct tax on their labor. His film connects the dots between money creation, federal income tax, voter fraud, the national identity card (which becomes law in May 2008) and the implementation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to track citizens.

Neither left nor right-wing in perspective, the film concludes that the U.S. government is taking on the characteristics of a police state. In fact, Russo routinely bashes both Democrat and Republican parties in the website clips available on his website.
The discussion that followed the Cannes preview lasted for thirty minutes, according to Russo’s press release for the movie. Actor Nick Nolte, in Cannes for the premiere of “Over The Hedge,” joined Russo during the event. “The information in this film is something everybody has to know,” said Nolte, who was the lead actor in “Teachers,” a film produced by Russo.

Here’s some analysis from Variety:

With his warm Brooklyn accent and affectedly folksy manner, Russo has a genial-cum-pugnacious presence onscreen and a knack for boiling down complex arguments and issues into easily digestible, “Global Economics for Dummies” sound bites.
Cornerstone contention in “Freedom to Fascism” is that the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was never properly ratified, an argument popularized in Bill Benson’s controversial book “The Law That Never Was,” that’s cited here. Along with the foundation of the Federal Reserve Bank in 1913, introduction of federal tax system is described by Bob Schulz of the We the People Foundation, as the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated by government against the working men and women of America.”
To support this point, Russo deploys interviews with former IRS agents who have joined pressure groups to fight imposition of federal tax. Other means of cinematic persuasion include cartoons, solemnly presented quotes from various illustrious (Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Goethe no less) and (in pic’s view) notorious figures (banker David Rockefeller). All this is backed by ominous music, and quick inserts from popular movies to underscore points humorously. This is redolent of campaign advertising, but less convincing as journalism.One doesn’t have to be a pro-Federalist to feel Russo’s tendency to use shot-reverse-shots in interviews with those opposed to his view — such as gamely participating former Tax Commissioner Sheldon Cohen –creates the impression that rhetorical sleight of hand is being used to undermine counter-argument.
However, the strong case built in pic’s first half is weakened by the vaguely argued contention in the second that the land of the free is becoming anything but. Attack focuses on the Federal Reserve, the Patriot Act, the abolition of the gold standard, and not-yet-ratified plans to introduce identity chips on currency and in citizens in the future.

I sort of disagree with the latter review, perhaps because I’m so used to the arguments and certainly because I’ve been so involved with Aaron Russo and this documentary. Sometimes movie scenes and dining room conversations become intertwined in my memory, biasing my view on Russo’s work.
I thought the second half of Russo’s movie was much stronger because it leads to the future as opposed to dealing with the controversial past. While Russo’s presentation of the 16th Amendment issues are clearly compelling for the court of public opinion (I think Russo did a great job in this regard), they don’t seem compelling for most contemporary courts of law. I’m sure our resident law student (who was a strong Russo supporter) will likely chime in on this issue, so I don’t need to carry this argument any further. However, Russo tackled quite a few issues (such as RFID, electronic voting, and the White House’s blatant disregard for the Constitution) which will continue to surface in the mainstream media for years to come.
I’ve learned from this documentary that everyone seems to be touched by some portions of it while very few people agree with each and every point made. We each walk away with different perceptions of the film, and I’m sure that your view will differ from mine. Most importantly, Russo wants this movie to make people think and to talk about (and then get involved with) the issues — a goal at which he succeeds.
It was expected that Russo would get lines and standing ovations at the local showings mostly advertised on the Internet to people within the freedom movement. Now that he’s getting the same general reception at Cannes and in more mainstream reviews, it’s an indicator that his film will have the same general impact with general audiences it’s had with more targeted ones.