My friend Jane stars in a movie!
My partner Sandy and I watched the entire 2012 GOP race–through the primaries, every debate, to the RNC and beyond. It was like a soap opera. Or a train wreck. We couldn’t take our eyes off of it, through ALL the wincing moments (of the candidates, the campaign staff, and ours!).
So when Jane–from my high school days–reached out to me to let me know that she was about to unveil a project she and Grace Lee (of American Zombie fame) had been working on, related to the GOP race, I was intrigued. It was a film called “Janeane from Des Moines.”
I did what I could to help make a screening happen in my local area, and sure enough, we pulled it off! This was last October. Jane and Grace came out and stayed with us (celebrities in the house!). We got to see this remarkable film on the big screen, and they led a remarkable conversation with the audience afterwards.
The film is kind of a “mockumentary.” It follows what we suppose to be a conservative Iowa housewife named Janeane–actually Jane undercover–whose life is falling apart. Janeane turns to the GOP candidates, who champion her values, for answers. The film crew captured some truly amazing footage of Janeane with most of the candidates, including Santorum, Gingrich, Bachmann and Romney. One encounter with Romney was so powerful that it was picked up and broadcast by ABC national news.
The “story line” gets into many of the hot button issues in the GOP/Tea Party, including anti-gay and anti-abortion religious rhetoric. Janeane’s husband turns out to be gay, and when he loses his job and thus their healthcare, she ends up having to go to Planned Parenthood (oh no! pffft) for help with a lump she’s found in her breast. It’s quite a painful moment for her. And it opens up–as the filmmakers hope–a space for real conversation about these issues that crosses the party (and belief/secular) lines.
end of spoiler alert!
The film appeals to all kinds of groups–faith, civic, social justice & equality, worker rights, healthcare rights etc. Their ideal audience includes folks from all sides of the aisles. Yes, I do think they wanted to make a particular difference in the election results, but they also genuinely wanted to generate the kind of discussion that could maybe break through the growing polarity in political and social rights discussion in our society.
If what I observed of the audience and after-screening discussion in Durham, North Carolina on October 15th was typical, I think they may have succeeded with at least part of their goal. But more telling yet was the care I felt for the character that Jane created. As a liberal, gay, ex-Christian myself, finding myself for a few hours in the shoes–and the life–of an annoying, fundamentalist, yet wholly empathetic human being, was a thought-provoking experience.