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06/11/2007 Archived Entry: "Uncivil Liberties, the movie"

I'D BE LYING IF I SAID IT WAS A GREAT MOVIE. In some ways, it barely makes it into the territory of being a good movie. But Uncivil Liberties (recommended to me by D.A. -- thanks, Dana!) is an interesting, sincere movie and one any libertarian or civil libertarian might be heartened to see. Call it also a pretty darned good amateur production; cast, crew, and financiers are largely one group, and the movie (just released this year) was made in 3-1/2 years of weekends in and around Albany, New York.

Ignore the Netflix description (link below). It's a mix of accurate and dead-wrong elements. The story:

Cynthia Porter is a Homeland Security computer whiz who's developed an algorithm that allows the snoopmasters to track anybody, anywhere, any time. Her work is about to undergo its first real test. Meanwhile, a large network of "domestic terrorists" has grown up to fight the ever more intrusive federal government. This network includes everybody from Islamic fundamentalists to Christian militiamen; various factions have overcome their distrust enough to unite uneasily against their common enemy.

The story focuses on Cynthia as she becomes increasingly disillusioned (and is eventually hoist on the petard of her own application after a brief, pure-chance encounter with a "terrorist suspect"). It secondarily focuses on a small group of militiamen, one of whom has been assigned to hack into the tracking database and another who's been assigned to assassinate Cynthia. Everyone ends up reading a book-length manifesto called "Liberty Reclaimed," and Cynthia is goaded into becoming a mensch by her sister, an explicitly libertarian radio talk-show host.

Production values of the movie are amateur -- but good amateur. Sometimes quite good. The plot is a bit thin with some highly unlikely elements. But just to see a movie on this theme is encouraging. I also like that the "stars" (not stars at all) are a perfectly ordinary-looking man an woman. She's got thick hips. Both wear geeky glasses. Somehow that makes them easier to identify with.

Given their budget (which must have been the filmic equivalent of about $1.98), the moviemakers did some fine things with lighting and locations. Watch the featurette for a charming explanation of how they pulled off a scene of explosions that would, if done in Hollywood, have required a million bucks worth of special effects.

Don't go out and get Uncivil Liberties expecting Great Art. But it's a cheering reminder that real people out there -- including some in the arts & film communities -- do care about liberty and understand that, right, left, and whatever, we're all in this together.

Amazon link to the DVD

Netflix link

Uncivil Liberties movie website

Posted by Claire @ 02:13 PM CST

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