Why this film matters
In the United States today, one in six children faces hunger and millions live paycheck to paycheck with no savings to fall back on. Among wealthy countries, there is no comparison to the hardships that face ordinary Americans. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent amass unprecedented wealth and power at everyone else’s expense. If this is America under capitalism, we urgently need an alternative.
In the past year, almost half a million teachers, health care workers, hotel workers, graduate students, steelworkers, and prisoners across the country went on strike. The gains of the supposedly booming economy are not reaching everyone equally. People are taking power for themselves.
Three years ago, Bernie Sanders’ presidential primary campaign unleashed a wave of interest in socialism in the US. Since then, 55,000 people have joined the Democratic Socialists of America, millions more Americans have voted for socialist politicians, and polls consistently show millennials prefer socialism over capitalism. What exactly do they mean by “socialism”? What legacy does socialism have in the United States and what would it look like here today? Socialism: An American Story will answer these questions and more.
Our film delves into the vibrant history of the American socialist movement. Through the early communes of the 1800s to the Cold War "red panic" that pushed socialism to the margins, we examine how socialism has challenged the inherent inequities of capitalism. We assess the movement's efforts to make true democracy in America a reality.
Socialism is again at the forefront of the national conversation as we approach what promises to be a contentious presidential election. Our current president is obsessed with the rise of socialism. President Trump denounced socialism both at his State of the Union and in a 70-page official memo on the topic. Bernie Sanders, a self-declared socialist, is a front-runner for the Democratic nomination. And the other Democratic candidates are regularly confronted with the question of where they stand in relation to socialism. This film provides a roadmap to understanding socialism’s legitimate place in our history, its influence on our volatile present, and its potential to shape our future.
The film so far
With help from the generous backers who donated to our first Kickstarter, we were able to shoot some amazing scenes: a giant-puppet reenactment of the 1886 Bay View Massacre, the Wisconsin Socialist party, an inspiring Democratic Socialist electoral campaign, young socialists canvassing for Medicare for All, demonstrating against ICE, and so much more!
We have been filming with our main characters for the past year. We filmed Stephanie at the Oklahoma teacher strike and the dramatic lead-up to it. We were with Lee from his first few months in office as many of his community-focused bills faced opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike.
With in-depth research and rare archival footage, we are presenting a fresh perspective on American history - from slavery through rise of unions, from the Cold War to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond.
We have drawn from the scholarship and guidance of experts and thought leaders in labor history, sociology, and economics. We have interviewed today’s leading thinkers who have captured the public’s attention - socialist radio show agitators, cutting edge activists, hard-hitting journalists, and community historians. To weave these important stories together, we need your help to push through the finish line.
Why we’re on Kickstarter
We’re a small 501(c)3, not a big production company, and we’re running on a shoestring budget. Since it’s a non-profit project, every dollar that you put in you’ll see directly on screen. The funds from Kickstarter will go directly towards post-production costs so that we can finish the movie and release it when it’s needed most. We did a Kickstarter campaign when we first started shooting this movie and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Thanks to our backers, we were able to jump right into the red-state teacher strikes as they were getting off the ground. Even if we could fund this film through the traditional channels, it wouldn't send the same message as funding it directly from the people. There is a strong and powerful movement brewing — we are eager for you to join us to make our message heard around the world.
How you can help
We have 30 days to reach our goal! It’s all or nothing with Kickstarter, so if we don’t hit our goal, we leave empty handed. Please spread the word to your family and friends!
We want to give you something in return! We’re offering some old favorites from our first Kickstarter campaign as well as some exciting new rewards.
Einstein – "The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is the real source of the evil. There is only one way to eliminate these grave evils: the establishment of a socialist economy."
A. Philip Randolph – "Freedom is never given; it is won."
MLK – "Call it democracy or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution within this country."
Yael Bridge is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker. Her films have shown at major film festivals nationally and internationally. She produced Left on Purpose, winner of the Audience Award at DOC NYC, and most recently produced Saving Capitalism with Robert Reich, nominated for an Emmy Award in Business and Economics. As Director of Productions at Inequality Media, Yael has made numerous viral videos that tackled complex political issues that have been viewed hundreds of millions of times on social media. She holds an MFA in Documentary Film and Video from Stanford University and an MA in Media Studies from the New School.
Morgan Spector is a classically trained stage actor who works in theatre, film, and television. Spector made his Broadway debut in Gregory Mosher's Tony Award-winning revival of Arthur Miller's “A View from the Bridge" starring opposite Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson. He was later nominated for a Drama Desk for his performance in the New Group's production of Erika Sheffer's "Russian Transport” starring Janeane Garofalo. Spector's film credits include: Chuck, Permission, A Vigilante, and The Drop. TV credits include leads in Pearson, Homeland, Boardwalk Empire, The Mist, Allegiance, and guest starring roles on Person of Interest, Orange is the New Black, and How to Make it in America. He will next be seen in David Simon’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America for HBO.
Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor and publisher of Jacobin magazine, which reaches over 40,000 readers in print and 1.5 million online every month. He is the author of The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality (Basic Books, 2019). He is also the publisher of Catalyst: A Journal of Theory and Strategy and the editor of The ABCs of Socialism (Verso, 2016), among other titles. Sunkara lives in New York City.
Christie is an award-winning editor, director, and producer. She recently produced and edited bias, a film that explores how our unconscious assumptions influence our choices. She edited and produced Code: Debugging the Gender Gap (Tribeca Film Festival), and edited The Impossible Flight for NOVA with Jean Kawahara. She directed and produced the ITVS-funded film The Campaign. Her other credits include work with PBS, National Geographic, A&E, MBC1, the History Channel, and nonprofit and corporate clients including Facebook, SFMoMA, Levis, the Mississippi Center for Justice, and the UC Berkeley Law School. She is on the Steering Committee of educational distributor cooperative New Day Films and is a 2019 American Film Showcase Expert. Christie holds an MA in Documentary Film and Video from Stanford University.
William Haugse has been nominated in editing categories for both an Oscar (Hoop Dreams, Fineline) and a national Emmy (Assassinated, Turner), and has received the American Cinema Editors top award among other honors. He has edited scores of doc features, and television films, including Stevie (Steve James, Lionsgate) and Sunset Story (Laura Gabbert, ITVS/PBS). He worked directly with Orson Welles and John Cassavetes on multiple projects, including extended length trailers for their films Opening Night and F For Fake. Recent work includes Gore Vidal: United States of Amnesia (2013 Tribeca) His work is represented in two films at 2015 Sundance, In Football We Trust, and City of Gold.
Sasha previously worked as Production Coordinator at Inequality Media, where she coordinated video shoots, research, and managed the production line for Robert Reich’s viral videos. She was the Associate Producer for the Emmy-nominated Saving Capitalism. She graduated with a BA in Art History from Reed College.
Eric is a cinematographer, director and producer based in New York. Some of his featured work includes broadcast television (PBS, National Geographic, Viceland, Vox, History Channel, Biography Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, Arte France), documentary and independent festival circuits (Sundance, Tribeca, New York FF, Los Angeles Intl FF, CPH:DOX, Rotterdam, Rooftop Films) and numerous online syndications (The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, TED, IndieWire, NoFilmSchool). He is a founding member of Meerkat Media Collective.
Zara is a non-fiction filmmaker and founding member of the Meerkat Media Collective. She is a co-writer and director of the collective’s award-winning feature documentaries, Stages and Brasslands, as well as numerous documentary shorts. She is also a board member of the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives and a Peer Educator with the Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York.
Jay is a director and editor whose work has appeared in theaters, on HBO, CNN, Arte, ESPN, and PBS. He’s a founder of Meerkat Media Collective, an award winning arts collective & cooperatively run production company that prioritizes shared authorship and consensus process in their creative process. Documentary editing credits include the Sundance premiering films Trophy and Narco Cultura, Tribeca award-winning Untouchable, Academy Award nominated Redemption as well as the collaboratively directed Meerkat Media films Brasslands and Stages. His most recent film Dark Money premiered at Sundance 2017.
Risks and challenges
The word “socialism” has returned to the mouths of talking heads, politicians, and activists across the spectrum of American politics. The right employs it as an insult, the left as a badge of honor. It is a highly contested word in our history but we want to give socialist ideas a fair assessment. What we don’t want to do is create blind propaganda. We’re taking a risk by navigating complicated terrain in the form of a documentary, but we can and will strive for an honest exploration of how socialism has been understood in the past and why it is being engaged now.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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