Ghosts in conservative documentaries

BreakingDVCodeBuried throughout this New York Times piece on the attempts of conservatives to get into the documentary film business is the question of whether these conservatives are motivated by something more than a political desire to promote conservative ideas. This "uprising on the right in a world that leans left," as the Times' headline puts it, goes deeper than what John Anderson was able to report when he talked to Jim Hubbard, Michael Wilson and Charles Sellier. The three are heavily involved in creating and promoting conservative films in an attempt to balance what they see as a dominance of liberal documentaries:

What the three acknowledge, however, is that something besides liberal bias is responsible for the striking shortage of conservative nonfiction cinema at a time when filmmakers on the other end of the spectrum are flooding screens with messages about global warming, the war in Iraq and the downside of Wal-Mart.

Mr. Hubbard, for one, is out to fill the void. He said a philanthropist, whom he declined to identify, had come forward with money to help finance a series of six documentaries that Mr. Hubbard wanted to produce, on various subjects, including the growth of government and whether it is "potentially a threat to our freedom."

Mr. Hubbard traces his own passion for the hitherto missing conservative cinema to an experience almost five years ago, when he was attending the University of Arkansas law school. He and his wife, he says, went to their local art house, where the menu was "Bowling for Columbine," "Frida" and "The Life of David Gale" -- films, respectively, by a liberal, about a Marxist and against capital punishment. The Hubbards weren't pleased.

Being "upstream of the culture" is a challenge that goes deeper than getting a few political films and launching a film festival. If Hubbard is simply trying to be a conservative antidote to Michael Moore, then this is a fine article. But I sense there is something deeper, a few questions left unanswered.

Check out this section of the article:

The notion that conservatism is essentially static would probably come as a surprise to some of the exuberant right-leaning thinkers who have upended the talk-radio world. Yet Mr. Sellier, with several religious documentaries to his credit, finds some truth in the idea.

"In order for a mind to soar at the possibilities and come up with someone no one ever thought of and making a film about it and showing it at a film festival -- it means you're out of the box," he said. "And if you're out of the box, you're out of conservative thinking, aren't you?"

Richard Peña, program director of the New York Film Festival and a member of the New Directors/New Films selection committee, similarly noted a dearth of strong conservative prospects. "For a number of years we received submissions from a Christian university of films that always looked like cheap sci-fi and were always about forced abortions," Mr. Peña said.

Anderson casually mentions later in the article that Sellier describes himself as an evangelical Christian.

I don't doubt that Wilson, Sellier and Hubbard want to make conservative films. I just want to know their motivations and if their mission goes beyond political wars and into cultural wars.

Perhaps these guys are interested in just throwing out political bombshells, but I suspect the six documentaries that Hubbard has been commissioned to make, supported by some mysterious donor, have something deeper to explore than mere conservative politics.

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