Academy Award shortlist’s ‘Citizen Koch’ comes to International House

A newly decorated statue at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Matt Wisniewski.

Scott Walker, the Tea Party governor of Wisconsin and current Republican frontrunner for the 2016 presidential race, is the focus of Citizen Koch, a documentary film that will be shown at International House on March 3, part of Scribe Video Center’s Producers’ Forum series. Citizen Koch was shortlisted for the 2015 Academy Awards.

Award-winning codirector Tia Lessin will be present for a discussion after the screening and will also give a master class the following evening at Scribe Video Center on the use of archival materials in documentary filmmaking.

Citizen Koch, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013, follows a grassroots effort to recall Walker after he took away unions’ collective bargaining rights. The 2010 decision by the Supreme Court in Citizens United, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts through campaign committees for political candidates, set the stage for Walker’s $30 million campaign to fight the recall. Those funds came largely from 14 billionaires, according to Forbes magazine, which also cited the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity’s extensive support for the campaign. Amy Goodman, writing in The Guardian, stated that Walker’s victory “signals less a loss for the unions than a loss for our democracy in this post-Citizens United era, when elections can be bought with the help of a few billionaires.” The film follows several unionized state workers as they struggle against a Tea Party takeover and question their affiliation with the Republican Party.

Linn Washington, who teaches journalism in the School of Media and Communication at Temple University, commented on the timeliness of this film: “Sadly too few Americans see the destruction of the 'American Dream' that is occurring in plain sight. This documentary shines a needed light on the dangers to democracy orchestrated by the Koch brothers and their minions.”

Lessin and her partner, Carl Deal, are also the producers and directors of the award-winning documentary about Hurricane Katrina, Trouble the Water, and co-produced several of Michael Moore’s films, including Fahrenheit 9/11.

The film will be shown with The 13th Amendment (2008), a five-minute film by local filmmaker and Reelblack production company founder Mike Dennis. The short film features Dennis’s 90-year-old great-great grandmother as she prepares to vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 Pennsylvania Primary.

Scribe Video Center presents Citizen Koch as part of its Producers’ Series on Tuesday, March 3 at 7pm at International House Philadelphia, 3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia ($10; $7 for students and seniors; $5 for Scribe and International House members). The master class with Tia Lessin will be held on Wednesday, March 4 at 7pm at Scribe Video Center, 4212 Chestnut Street, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia ($20 for non-members, $10 for Scribe members). To register, click here