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American Film Renaissance selections

STEVE PERSALL
Published August 13, 2004

These movies have been scheduled for the first American Film Renaissance festival Sept. 10 to 12 in Dallas, where conservative-themed cinema will be showcased. Descriptions in quotation marks come from the festival's Web site (www.afrfilmfestival.com) The list is subject to change. Dates and times of the screenings have not been announced.

Beyond the Passion of the Christ: The Impact: Tim Chey's documentary focuses on the "extraordinary miracles that have taken place as a result" of Mel Gibson's film.

Brainwashing 101: "Teaching tolerance but practicing hate: A disturbing look at how liberalism dominates campus life and higher education."

Confronting Iraq: Former CIA director James Woolsey is featured in a focus on "what you didn't hear about the threat Iraq posed to America."

DC/911: Time of Crisis: Timothy Bottoms (The Paper Chase) stars in "an inside look at the courage and decisiveness of President Bush in the minutes, hours and days following America's worst tragedy."

To End All Wars: Kiefer Sutherland (TV's 24) stars in a World War II drama about survival in a POW camp in the Pacific.

Entertaining Vietnam: Documentary about musicians and dancers "who crossed enemy lines to entertain those fighting for freedom."

George W. Bush: Faith in the White House: "How the power of faith can change a life, build a family and shape the destiny of a nation."

Innocents Betrayed: Invoking memories of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the documentary poses that the "path to tyranny in these and other 20th century dictatorships began with the implementation of gun control."

Is It True What They Say About Ann?: Patrick Wright's profile of conservative thinker Ann Coulter "as you've never seen her before."

Mega Fix: The Dazzling Political Deceit That Led to 9/11: Monologist Jack Cashill links bombings in Oklahoma City and Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park, the destruction of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island, N.Y., and other tragedies to the "perfect storm of disinformation that surrounded the Clintons' desperate drive to the White House."

Michael and Me: In response to Bowling for Columbine, talk show host Larry Elder "teaches Michael Moore a thing or two about the Second Amendment."

Michael Moore Hates America: Mike Wilson's documentary "challenges Mr. Moore's radical left-wing propaganda (and) tells the truth about a great nation."

Operation Eagle Strike: Conservatives infiltrate an antiwar rally: "Who says that the left doesn't hate?"

Relentless: "Unravels the myths and exposes the obstacles to achieving peace in the Middle East."

Remembering Saddam: Six Iraqis tell of their mutilations under Hussein's orders "and why today they are among America's staunchest supporters."

The Siege of Western Civilization: Herb Meyer, a high-level intelligence official in the Reagan administration, "outlines the history of Western Civilization and the threats we now face, from the war on terrorism to our own country's Second Civil War."

Silent Victory: Retired Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and others recall the "young patriots" of Company F, 51st Long Range Patrol who volunteered for duty in Vietnam "and how they became the most successful unit of its kind in spite of the press insisting otherwise."

Festival is a Cannes for conservatives

Two years ago, Jim and Ellen Hubbard stood in line at their favorite theater in Little Rock, Ark., before choosing to do something else with their evening.

Rather, the movie industry decided for them.

"We had a choice between Bowling for Columbine - you know, Michael Moore's movie - and Frida, which is about a Communist artist, and some other film," said Jim Hubbard, 35, now living in Dallas. "My wife and I just didn't want to see any of that stuff.

"Where is the product for just regular Americans? A huge segment of the country is alienated by the entertainment industry (that) doesn't understand half the country, and probably more. Otherwise, they wouldn't be making films like Frida. Who cares about that?"

Then again, who cares to see a movie (or two) raking Fahrenheit 9/11 director Michael Moore over the coals or a documentary praising President Bush's religious faith? Who wants to see an expose of liberalism on Ivy League campuses or a film linking gun control with 20th century tyranny?

The Hubbards will know the answers Sept. 10 to 12 when they host the first American Film Renaissance festival, a showcase of conservatism in cinema.

The first night's events in Dallas are invitation only, so opening day for the public will be the third anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The reasoning is clear to Jim Hubbard: "We know that conservatives will be paying attention then."

Hubbard describes himself as a "conservative independent" who didn't vote for President Bush in 2000 and chose Ross Perot four years before that, after ending his days as a Republican activist. Ellen Hubbard's favorite politician is former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura. She's an attorney specializing in civil-suit defenses, and he's a law school graduate who plans to open a practice. Both are registered as Republicans in Arkansas.

Together, Jim Hubbard said, they're "two peas in a pod." Neither wants to change the world, just a few of its movie-viewing choices.

To that end, the Hubbards organized the American Film Renaissance, dedicated to movies that, for one reason or another, aren't likely to be seen at megaplexes nationwide. (See the accompanying box.)

Perhaps it's the obstacles commonly preventing scores of independently produced films from being widely distributed. Maybe the film industry is too liberally slanted to give them a chance. But in an election year when Fahrenheit 9/11 is a phenomenon that will influence some people to vote against President Bush, it's a surprise that any movies exist supporting the president and conservatism in general.

Hubbard recalled film critic Roger Ebert's review of Random Hearts, in which the critic described Kristin Scott Thomas' character as a "rarity in a Hollywood movie, a good-hearted Republican."

The Hubbards hoped to locate a handful of documentaries with the perspectives they sought. Currently, the schedule includes 17 films, several of them feature-length dramas.

"Many people ask me: What is a conservative film or documentary?" Jim Hubbard said. "Really, I don't know if there's a definition. Our objective is trying to find product that a more conservative, traditional audience would gravitate toward.

"We're a mainstream film festival, and many people are trying to couch us in terms of being an adjunct of the Republican National Committee or the 700 Club. That really doesn't quite fit what we're trying to do."

What the American Film Renaissance attempts, he said, is balancing what is perceived as the exclusively liberal slant of popular entertainment. Jim Hubbard thinks movies reach everyone but don't speak for everyone.

"I've always been interested in politics and culture," he said. "Since I was a teenager, I studied cultural and political messages in films. I noticed almost overwhelmingly that when there was a message in a film, it was invariably something I didn't agree with, that didn't share my world view. In my opinion, it didn't reflect the world view of the majority of people in this country."

Hubbard said the situation goes beyond overtly political films such as Fahrenheit 9/11.

"Films like Fahrenheit 9/11 don't bother me," he said. "You know when you're shelling out $7 to get in the theater what you're going to see. You know you're going to get beat over the head with Michael Moore's world view.

"What really irritates me is those films that are not political but they slip in these (liberal) messages."

Like the bad guy in the comedy Old School, a college dean with a photograph of former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, on his desk. Or The Italian Job, a crime caper in which two robbers discuss Christopher Columbus' role in exterminating American Indians.

"First, that's a lie," Hubbard insisted. "Secondly, that fits in with the left-wing agenda you see on college campuses to, in my opinion, eradicate Western traditions such as Columbus Day."

Such subtle liberalism won't be found at American Film Renaissance. Central to the festival's inaugural theme, as in 2004's political arena, is the war in Iraq.

"Being against the war is one thing. Hating Bush is one thing," Jim Hubbard said. "But I wish people would be more balanced and say, "Look, some positive things have come out of our involvement in Iraq.' This mass murderer and his thug sons have been removed. The killing fields have stopped. There's a chance - and it may not work - but there's a chance for the Iraqi people to have freedom for the first time.

"If you feel like the United States shouldn't have gone to war, I can handle that. If you feel like the war wasn't handled properly, there are some just criticisms there. But, come on, let's put the other pot on the table. That's the sort of thing you won't see at many film festivals."

However, the festival isn't designed as an opportunity to bash antiwar demonstrators, environmentalists or Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

"Many people think we're doing this to castigate liberals," Jim Hubbard said. "But do you know who my biggest beef is with? Conservatives because they don't get out and produce their own projects.

"Conservatives always like to preach about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. Conservatives need to do the same thing. For some reason, conservatives have neglected the movies, which, in my opinion, are a much more powerful medium than books.

"We can't wait for someone like Michael Moore to make our films for us. Do you think Michael Moore waited? No, he went out and raised money to make Roger & Me (in part) by playing bingo in Flint, Mich.

"The market is there; conservatives just have to make the films. If we do that, you're going to find there's a ready-made market for films reflecting our values."

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