A few months ago, I mentioned the launch of Ironweed, which bills itself as “a monthly progressive film festival on DVD.” My initial interest in Ironweed grew out of their use of a “DVD of the month” distribution strategy to support a progressive politics, but more recently, I’ve had a chance to review or revisit some of Ironweed’s recent offerings, including Deborah Scranton’s underrated The War Tapes (my review) and Ian Inaba’s American Blackout.

While American Blackout structures its narrative around the political career of former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, the documentary’s primary focus is the issue of voter disenfranchisement, a topic that continues to be relevant in the scandal at the Department of Justice (see also this article by Greg Gordon of McClatchy Newspapers). As American Blackout astutely illustrates, the voting irregularities in Florida and Ohio in 2000 and 2004 helped to feed a deeper cynicism regarding the election process. It was also interesting to revisit McKinney’s volatile political career, especially after closely following her short-lived return to office in the 2004 election.

I’m also very glad I had the chance to revisit The War Tapes, which was one of the first films I saw when I moved to Fayetteville, thanks to a special screening targeted toward soldiers serving at Fort Bragg. I think that what sets Scranton’s film apart from other war documentaries is her decision to show not only how the war affects the soldiers themselves but their families at home. Living in a military town and having a number of students who are married to soldiers, their stories really hit home for me this time, and most Iraq War documentaries haven’t really provided that perspective. I’ll try to do a little more writing about The War Tapes soon (I’m thinking about including it in my cinema and autobiography course next fall), but some other deadlines are demanding attention.

I’m also hoping to write a little further about Ironweed and the role that a progressive film club can serve. I think my original comparison with the Robert Greenwald documentary house parties still holds, especially given Ironweed’s more recent attempts to cultivate a larger progressive film community. The documentaries they distribute are often very timely and include a number of the more significant documentaries made over the last few years, including Sir, No Sir (my review) and Boys of Baraka, and Black Gold (which I still haven’t seen).

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