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The ACLU Freedom Files
The ACLU Freedom Files
Actors: Tommy Bertelsen, Greg Bryan, Christa Cottemond-Windley, Michael Schiller, Ronald Shore
Director: Jeremy Kagan
Genres: Television, Documentary
NR     2006     0hr 29min

"LISTEN UP! THESE SHOWS ARE IMPORTANT!" - LEWIS BLACK, Comedy Central's The Daily Show The American Civil Liberties Union and Robert Greenwald present The ACLU Freedom Files, a revolutionary, 10-part series of documentar...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Tommy Bertelsen, Greg Bryan, Christa Cottemond-Windley, Michael Schiller, Ronald Shore
Director: Jeremy Kagan
Creators: Alex Rotaru, Jacob Lincoln, Jeremy Kagan, David Latham, Devin Smith, Malissa Strong, Mike Stanley, Scott Corbin, Stephanie Hubbard, Anneke Campbell
Genres: Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary
Studio: Disinformation
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 07/25/2006
Original Release Date: 09/15/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 09/15/2005
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 0hr 29min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: Spanish, Arabic

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Movie Reviews

Sloppily put together; incoherent at times; almost disrespec
Shaun | 02/18/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)

""The ACLU was founded by Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, Albert DeSilver and others in 1920. We are nonprofit and nonpartisan and have grown from a roomful of civil liberties activists to an organization of more than 500,000 members and supporters. We handle nearly 6,000 court cases annually from our offices in almost every state."

That quotation is not from the movie, instead, this quotation is from ACLU's website; we never get any history of the ACLU from this documentary. The history of civil liberties is not interwoven with the history of the ACLU. If you want a great documentary on the ACLU, wait indefinitely until PBS produces one. This documentary is disappointing; let me explain....
It is a sad contrast that the most influential civil liberties defender, the ACLU, is defended so trivially and incoherently in this DVD by director Robert Greenwald. "Freedom Files" is made up of 10 episodes, each approximately 30 minutes long. With such a short time to deal with such complicated issues, the director, has serious constraints. Greenwald does not rise to the challenge. This film is presented in such an unconventional manner that it undermines the education is tries to provide. Robert Greenwald (producer) said in one of the special features on this DVD that he wanted to "take risks stylistically." Well, he did, and they did not pay off. Here are some examples; as a woman was shown on video giving a speech about women's rights, three separate sentences revealing statistics about unequal treatment of women appeared above the speaker, beside the speaker, and below. I tried to listen to her speak while read three sentences. No good documentary does this. Whoever is holding the camera does a terrible job at holding it steady. Sometimes little graphics appear with words on them in the weirdest places, like on a judge's hand as he waves it across the camera. This is a distraction from the message of judge. Sometimes there are multiple video feeds on screen at one time and the viewer is expected to listen to what is being said while processing the relevance of what is being shown. Maybe one of the more serious criticisms would be that Greenwald and director Romero display no logical progression in his narrative of liberties. As an episode is watched, all the examples are randomly put together in a sequence. We do not begin with an unconstitutional law find a dispute and then win a constitutional battle. It's surprising that a documentary on legal battles shows the names of so few legal precedents and presents so few legal arguments. Despite the focus on ACLU legal battles, ACLU legal advisors are not interviewed often enough. Although there is one episode dedicated to the Supreme Court, there is generally a lackluster discussion on legal issues especially legal terminology.
This documentary provides only the semblance of a historical background on the issue. Instead it focuses on minor legal battles that the ACLU won (with a few exceptions). Instead of dealing with the issues in episode 3 ("Gay and Lesbian Rights") carefully, the director decides to have two comedians: Margaret Cho and Judy Gold give unimportant comic relief. Margaret Cho is absolutely not funny in this episode and utterly unsure of herself when she talks about notions of legal equality.
Overall I found the presentation distracting, belittling, confusing, irritating, lackluster, and unfortunate. The closest thing to the "ACLU: Freedom Files," currently, is PBS's new release called The Supreme Court. That documentary has incredible production quality. It is educational and creative without being unconventional in a trivial manner. They are two different films seeking two different purposes. But if you watch both you'll wish that PBS had made a documentary on the ACLU, and, those "risky" approaches to making documentaries often belittle the subject being studied."
MOVIE GOER | 07/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

I love the ACLU
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 09/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This two-disc series does a great job at bringing to life some of the most important issues the ACLU (of which I've been a very proud member since November 1997) deals with, and has been dealing with in recent years. It goes beyond the hateful propagandistic clichés and outright lies that uninformed ignorant uneducated ACLU-bashers like to bandy about, like "The ACLU hates religion/Christians" or "The ACLU hates America." We're a group that fights for the rights of many diverse groups of people; we're not a group with one set political orientation, nor is our work to uphold the Establishment Clause the only or most important thing we do, contrary to the people who have this obsessive focus on that aspect of the ACLU, as though we don't do anything but keep religion from being illegally inserted into the public sphere. These stories are the stories of real everyday people, people such as Lindsay, the highschool student who was forced to take a drug test; Jessica, the woman whose controlling ex-husband Simon violated his restraining order and did something incredibly horrible to their children without any intervention by the police to stop it from happening; Alondra, the highschool student who had to go to school in a place where there were no textbooks for students and where rats were rampant; Abbey, the graduating senior who wanted to have her yearbook quote be a Biblical passage reflecting her faith; and Willow, the woman who was shot by a wooden bullet during an entirely peaceful demonstration. These stories go beyond simplistic soundbytes and skewed propaganda to tell the real story of the ACLU, hopefully making the average viewer aware of just how close to home these issues are, maybe even changing some minds about what we really stand for.

Disc one contains the episodes "Religious Freedom," "Voting Rights," "Gay and Lesbian Rights," "Women's Rights," "Youth Speak," and "Drug Wars." In these episodes, we learn about how hard we've had to fight to get the basic rights and protections we have today, how many rights we still have yet to gain, and how a lot of these protections and rights, such as restraining orders, voting rights for minorities, and rights for those under 18, just might as well not exist because they're either ignored or outright violated. Disc two contains the episodes "Beyond the Patriot Act," "The Supreme Court," "Dissent," and "Racial Profiling," plus about an hour and a half of bonus features (segments with four of the comedians featured on the various episodes, a series discussion with producer/director Jeremy Kagan, interviews with Anthony Romero, the ACLU's current executive director, and writer Anneke Campbell, and an introduction to the series by executive producer Robert Greenwald). These last four episodes show us again just how far we have yet to go before we have complete freedom and justice for all in America, how racism is still very much alive and well, how peaceful dissenters are treated like dangerous criminals just because they have legit issues with the government, and the frightening crime against the Constitution that is the Patriot Act, which seems more like the Big Brother Act. Each episode is only about a half-hour in length, but there's always a lot squeezed into each episode, showing us the many diverse people and issues involved in areas such as women's rights, the so-called "war on drugs," youth rights, and religious liberties.

Overall, this is the type of thing that needs to be seen by those who think the ACLU is the bogeyman and this terrible horrible group that's composed of a bunch of religion-hating radical leftists. The truth is a lot more complex than those propagandistic soundbytes always being bandied about by those who evidently don't know a thing about the ACLU and what we all stand for. And since it never preaches to the viewer or has some narrative voice telling us what to think, we're able to have our own reactions to these stories. This series can only be for the good and serve to enlighten those who seek to demonise the wonderful work done by the ACLU since its inception in 1920."
Great teaching tool
S. Laidlaw | SLC UT | 12/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I purchased this video to show to my Family Law class at the college where I teach. Excellent examples of women's rights and lack of rights in real situations. It generated some really good discussion."