Resilience at the Movies

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Humans are resilient, adaptive, and resourceful. When an obstacle is placed in our way, we remove it or circumvent it. When we lose something, we devise a substitute. When a door closes, we begin looking for a new opening.

We’ve seen examples of this innovation and resilience throughout the pandemic lockdown. Manufacturers adapted their factories to provide goods with heightened demand. Stores and restaurants installed plexiglass shields, established senior hours, and moved their services out to the sidewalk. Internet and streaming services boosted their bandwidth and expanded their volume.

When Gov. Steve Sisolak (D-NV) effectively shut FreedomFest down just ten days before the festival was to start, by outlawing gatherings over the magic number of 49 people (despite having hundreds of people gathering near each other in the casinos just outside the conference area and hundreds more protesting in the streets outside), we managers of FreedomFest were outraged.

We felt a deep regret for our speakers and sponsors who had prepared speeches and presentations, as well as for our attendees who had made travel arrangements and craved the interaction with other attendees at the festival. As lockdowns continue into their seventh month with no end in sight, we feel great concern about the twin freedoms of assembly and speech. Human lives and livelihoods are being irreparably damaged, at levels that far exceed the loss of life from the disease.

My greatest disappointment in my role as producer of the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival, which is an arm of FreedomFest, was for our filmmakers — the actors, directors, musicians, editors, producers, set designers, scriptwriters, costumers, and everyone else who contributes to the making of a film.

Human lives and livelihoods are being irreparably damaged, at levels that far exceed the loss of life from the disease.

But humans are resilient, adaptive and resourceful. We don’t take “No” for an answer if we can create a “Yes.”

For Anthem, that “Yes” came in the form of a phone call from David Evans, President of Salem Media Group, suggesting that we partner together in presenting Anthem online this year. There ensued a flurry of preparations as we adapted some more. And within a matter of three weeks, viewers were able to subscribe to the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival on the newly created SalemNow platform, watching all the festival films whenever they want, as often as they want, through October 15.

David Evans is another example of resilience, adaptivity, and resourcefulness. He owns over 100 radio stations across America. His radio hosts include Larry Elder, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and many other names familiar to the freedom movement. Evans observed that radio listenership was up during the pandemic, but advertising was down, as businesses that usually advertised on radio responded to falling or nonexistent demand for their products and events. Meanwhile, millions of Americans were staying home — and the resilient and resourceful Evans saw an opportunity to expand his business by adapting to new demand for digital media — movies, that is. He demonstrated the self-balancing power of the marketplace from which all of us can benefit.

As a result, the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival went forward. We still couldn’t bring our audience into a live theater where they could meet face-to-face with the directors, but we were able to create the ambience of a live festival by filming introductions and interviews with the directors that we attached to their film screenings. We were even able to tally the audience reaction for the coveted Audience Choice Award, through the online rating service, FilmDove. Resilience, adaptability, and resourcefulness saved the day, and the festival.

Anthem’s motto of “individuality, choice, and accountability” can be seen in the themes of all 31 films selected for screening this year.

So who won? I’m happy to make that announcement!

Man in the Arena, a documentary of Roger Ailes’ 50-year career from campaign strategist to cable news mogul to fallen icon, won the Grand Prize. Accepting the award, first-time director Michael Barnes said, “One of the keys to understanding Roger Ailes is that he was a middle America guy who was a relentless champion of the underdog. Roger made it possible for underdogs to win. He excelled in leading long-shot campaigns against formidable foes, often in one-sided contests . . . You have to measure the good with the bad, the failures with the successes. And it puts meaning and context to the incredible life and Shakespearean downfall of an icon.”

Barnes and Michael Ozias, director of They Say It Can’t Be Done, shared the Audience choice award, which is determined by ratings of the viewers. They Say It Can’t Be Done highlights exciting innovations in medical technology, food production, and removal of pollution, and it won the prize for Best Documentary Feature.

Speed of Life, directed by Liz Mansashil, won the award for Best Narrative Feature. I love the way Manashil combined genres. It’s a science fiction that isn’t darkly dystopian, a romance that isn’t formulaic, a time travel that isn’t predictable, and a non-comedy with a good dose of laughter.

Anthem’s motto of “individuality, choice, and accountability” can be seen in the themes of all 31 films selected for screening this year. They include films about education, journalism, and government regulation; history and politics; love and sacrifice; and individuals overcoming obstacles through resourcefulness and self-reliance. Award winner Get Off, a short narrative by Iranian filmmaker Teymour Ghaderi, is a good example of that resourceful and resilient spirit. It follows a plucky teenaged girl as she dodges police to get her bicycle across town when her male friend is unable to provide the required escort.

I often feel like the mother to my festival. I don’t have favorites. But in this divisive and violent year, I especially appreciate the messages of How to Love Your Enemy: A Restorative Justice Story, which offers a rehabilitative approach to criminal justice reform, and What’s Your Number? by Sigal Erez, who took a symbol of violent oppression — the number tattooed on an arm — and turned it into an expression of hope — the numbering of our souls. I don’t think any other film so clearly expresses the intrinsic value of each individual and Anthem’s motto of individuality, choice, and accountability.

Here is the complete list of winners:

  • Man in the Arena (Michael Barnes, dir.). Anthem Grand Prize, Audience Choice (tie)
  • They Say it Can’t Be Done (Michael Ozias, dir.). Best Documentary Feature, Audience Choice (tie)
  • Where the Directives Grow (Thomasz Agencki, dir.). Best International Documentary
  • Speed of Life (Liz Manashil, dir.). Best Narrative Feature
  • Bassil’Ora (Rebecca Basso, dir.). Best International Feature
  • The Teleios Act (Evan Matthews, dir.). Best Short Narrative
  • The Big Skim (Molly Dedham, dir.). Best Short Documentary
  • The Common Ground Sound Show (Jill Riley, dir.). AnthemVault Prize for Best Original Score
  • The March of History: Mises vs. Marx (John Papola, dir.). FreedomFest Prize for Best Economic Principles
  • Money Machine (Ramsey Denison, dir.). Excellence in Filmmaking, Documentary Feature
  • Mondo Hollywoodland (Janek Ambros, dir.). Excellence in Filmmaking, Narrative Feature
  • Metrics (Grant Bergland, dir.). Excellence in Filmmaking, Short Narrative
  • The Falconer (Ian Reid, dir.). Excellence in Filmmaking, Short Documentary
  • Inner Life (Mahammad Hormozi, dir.). Excellence in Filmmaking, International
  • How to Love your Enemy: A Restorative Justice Story (Sam Martin and Matt Battaglia, dirs.). Best Libertarian Ideals, Documentary Feature
  • What’s Your Number? (Sigal Erez, dir.). Best Libertarian Ideals, Short Narrative
  • Korematsu vs US (Matt Wood, dir.). Best Libertarian Ideals, Short Documentary
  • Get Off (Teymour Ghaderi, dir.). Best Libertarian Ideals, International

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