Oct 29, 2009
6:30 PM ET
New York

The director of The Natural, Rain Man, and Wag the Dog uses his film insider status to probe the mysteries of the intersection of Hollywood and politics. Barry Levinson journeyed to the 2008 Democratic and Republican conventions and the Obama inauguration to understand what role celebrities have in the actual political process. Among the entertainment figures he interviews are Anne Hathaway, Susan Sarandon, Spike Lee, Ellen Burstyn, and the late Ron Silver. (85 minutes)

This screening is in association with Showtime and The Creative Coalition.

Director Statement:
The intersection of entertainment and politics will always fascinate me. Wag the Dog was not just an exploration of what happens when Washington exploits Hollywood’s talent for selling fantasies, but ultimately its Machiavellian code of conduct in the area of messaging and public relations. Communication—the ability to connect and manipulate—is perhaps the most interesting part of politics we can observe.

When I arrived in Denver at the DNC, I was amazed at the media spectacle of it all. We live in an age where television dominates our reality, and particularly our political reality. Everything has been turned into entertainment. Why politics has to be entertaining, I don’t know. But it has to be, because it’s on television all the time. The result is that a lot of important issues get frivolized and marginalized because we get caught up in distractions. The networks don’t really mind the distractions because they can be more entertaining than the “News,” and ratings are what ultimately matter. Is Obama a Muslim? How many houses does McCain have? Hannity still talks about Bill Ayers....

Like any invention, there are both positive and negative effects to television. It has been a great source of entertainment, and at times educational and a part of fomenting our national identity. But the negative effects of television are more subtle, more covert, and we tend to ignore them. As I followed a number of politically active actors, musicians, and writers through the 2008 election, each with various messages or causes they want to get out there, I saw just how difficult it is to get matters of substance into the national dialogue. Given that entertainers have a platform by means of their celebrity, they seemed like the ideal vehicle to explore the impact of entertainment on modern day politics. Like today’s Washington celebrities, they too have to survive the media circus we live in with all its attacks and labels and trivialities, and somehow make sense of it all and have their voices heard.

The question this trend raises is what happens to truth in the pursuit of ratings and entertainment? What happens to our political process? Do we get further polarized because half of us get our information from MSNBC and the other half from Fox News? Or will we eventually be enveloped in a cloud of disinformation and trivialities?

Hopefully the film illuminates some of those effects, and maybe makes us more aware of them.

—Barry Levinson

Barry Levinson, Filmmaker
Robert Baruc
Tim Daly, Actor
Tom Fontana, Writer/Producer
Lynn Whitfield, Actress
Moderator: Robin Bronk, Executive Director, The Creative Coalition

Ticket Info

Members: $15
General Public: $20

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