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USA, 2012, 82 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Crime, Documentary, Drama, Political, Social Issues, Thriller
Program: DocumentaryLanguage: English
DIRECTOR: Jamie Meltzer
Producer: Steve Bannatyne, George RushEditor: John Kane, Jamie Meltzer, Summers HendersonScreenwriter: Jamie MeltzerCinematographer: Frazer BradshawPrincipal Cast: Brandon Darby
In this politically relevant documentary, director Jamie Meltzer turns his lens on activist-turned-informant Brandon Darby. Darby became famous among community organizers after defying authorities and heroically rescuing a friend during hurricane Katrina in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, then helping to start a grassroots relief organization called Common Ground. He symbolized for many the potential power of radical activism.
His operation in the Ninth Ward was hugely successful, but he didn’t stop there. In a convoluted plan to get aid and simultaneously embarrass the federal government, he traveled to Venezuela to meet with the leftist government of Hugo Chavez. But Darby found the trip unsettling, and he began to question his radical ambitions. After two activists were arrested during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Darby revealed that he had provided key information to authorities.
Meltzer’s technically crisp film avoids taking a side. By letting Darby tell his own story and intercutting it with testimony from his former associates and friends—who sometimes vehemently disagree with Darby—Meltzer has created an absorbing puzzle about a man full of contradiction: one who seems at once caring and ruthless, compassionate and egomaniacal, who has done so much good but apparently was so reckless. Did he become an informant to help thwart extremism—to be heroic—as he tells his new right-wing followers, or did he do it, as one former activist friend puts it, “for thirty pieces of silver”?
- MARK MAÑAGO
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