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Monday, April 27, 2009

Unconvention, A mix tape from St. Paul, RNC 08 Premier

On Sunday, April 26th, I attended Chris Strouth's new film, Unconvention, A Mix Tape from St. Paul. RNC 08, which premiered at St. Anthony Main as part of the 27th Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. The screening sold out.

It was an intense, adrenaline producing 2-hour ride which brought back the feeling of being on edge that I had while watching the independent media coverage of the event at the time. (I was one of thousands of people worldwide who was gripped by live coverage by the Uptake and on Twitter as the riots and chaos ensued outside the Excel Center in September of 2008.)

The main take-away I got from the film (and the initial coverage) is that had these independent journalists not been on-hand capturing the confrontations between police and citizens on the streets of St. Paul, those of us who consume news might have been left with an entirely different story of the convention, the one told by most of the mainstream media of the events (or non-events) going on inside the convention hall.

Kudos to Strouth for putting this footage back out in front of people and for helping to bring it to a wider audience so the events of September, 2008 are not forgotten. I also think Strouth did a tremendous job of stepping back and letting the footage speak for itself. And I think it does speak rather loudly. Issues of free speech, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceable assembly almost loom larger in retrospect than the multiple issues that differing groups of protesters were attempting to raise by their various marches and events.

At times, I was so engrossed by this film, I was actually surprised I could not smell tear gas in the theater.

Below are some clips from the lively Q&A with the filmmaker that transpired after the film. Clips 3 and 4 include some rather heated comments from a few audience members.


Nigel Parry said...

Shame Chris Strouth is claiming that footage others took and edited is his own.

The Shepard Road sequence is one example.

That was wholesale lifting of an early draft edited by someone who worked on Terrorizing Dissent.

You will see no mention of anyone credited for TD in Strouth's credits. Lame.

Andy F said...

When i talked to the associate producer (can't remember his name) about the crediting of Jenn Proulx, i said that the footage of the interview with Wes in front of the shed with ivy (he wasn't credited either, when other "talent" was) was shot by someone else for Terrorizing Dissent.

His response was, something along the lines of, "We got that footage from Jenn, it's different"

I'm willing to give these guys the benefit of the doubt, but when you go to the effort of getting people to sign waivers so you can distribute your film and someone hands in a clip from another RNC documentary and claims it's theirs (not to mention the film's similar plot points)it's sketchy at best.

If this was an honest mistake, that's one thing (probably was). However, if Chris Strouth is down with enabling someone's plagiarism, it speaks more to him as a filmmaker and to Unconvention than I care to write about.

chris strouth said...


first off we weren't plagiarizing at least not knowingly. We got that footage from our exc producer Joan Sekler. She gave us hundreds of hours of footage very little of it was all that usable (poorly shot, not context, messed up audio) That section was really terrific. it is cut with footage from the the Uptake as well (police press conference, and sections leading up to it)

I asked Joan repeatedly if we were cool to use that section. She said it was Jenn's and that we had permission to use it. I took Joan at her word.

It's hard to say we plagiarized , given that Terrorizing dissent didn't exist when we made ours. So unless we had some sort of time machine thats not really all that possible. Given also to the fact I haven't seen it (save for the trailer and the first 4-5 minutes).

Terrorizing Dissent, is a different sort of film then ours, we really tried to make ours as just telling a story of what happened and let the viewer decide what they think. From what i have seen I gather we are of very different opinions on that. Thats not a bad thing, my film is isn't telling the protesters story there aren't heroes in my film, its goal is to simply shine a light on what I belive to be a flawed process