BEST FILM (2005)

Security and the Constitution

Well-known as the hardest-working filmmaker in the cities, documentarian extraordinaire Matt Ehling (Urban Warrior) has, since 9/11, been crafting the sort of PBS-worthy docs that PBS doesn't dare to broadcast anymore. His latest is, you could say, a noble effort to inform us of what we might at this point be too terrified to want to study on our own. Interviewing a cavalcade of government, university, and interest-group heavyweights (including former CIA director Stansfield Turner and local FBI heroine Colleen Rowley), Ehling delves deep into the controversies surrounding the Patriot Act and the introduction of military elements into the realm of domestic policing. Yet for all the unease that these topics bring to any inquisitive American, Ehling's thesis seems to be that the Bush years actually don't represent the first time in U.S. history that constitutional rights have been suspended--that in each preceding case (e.g., WWII-era Japanese internment camps), public reaction and the strength of our government's foundation have won out. Whether that comforting message will be galvanizing or placating is up to us. How's that for democracy?


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