Conservative documentaries fail to find favor at big film festivals
Surprisingly, some big festivals like Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival regularly feature more conservative documentaries, although they appear not to be as political in nature as many of the left wing entries. Personality driven documentaries are more acceptable for the most part, which leaves a lot of conservative filmakers out in the cold.
Over the years, Sundance has been famously friendly to eco-themed docs, providing high-profile premieres for films such as "An Inconvenient Truth" and "The Cove," as well as political hot potatoes like "Why We Fight" and "8: The Mormon Proposition" (about gay marriage). Among fests, Sundance is hardly alone in offering a platform to left-leaning docs. Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, while Alex Gibney's "Taxi to the Dark Side" is just one of many lefty Tribeca offerings.
By contrast, "2016: Obama's America" co-directors Dinesh D'Souza and John Sullivan avoided the U.S. fest circuit altogether in favor of tapping into their own constituency - and it doesn't seem to have hurt the film in the slightest. A politically conservative adaptation of the anti-Obama book, "2016" earned more than $33 million, making it the second-highest-grossing political doc after "Fahrenheit 9/11."
For most nonfiction pics, however, the fest circuit is a vital component of a film's life cycle, which is why businessman-turned-documaker Dennis Michael Lynch submitted his film "They Come to America" to nearly 30 U.S. festivals, including Sundance, Tribeca and Silverdocs, to no avail. He contends the film was rejected by programmers around the country on the basis of his conservative stance on immigration, as opposed to the film's quality. Lynch went on to self-distribute and decided not to "waste a dime on festivals" when it came to the release of 'They Come to America II.' "
On the other hand, the cinema verite-style "Caucus," about the 2012 Iowa Republican caucus, was accepted into such established fests as HotDocs and AFI Docs last year, although helmer A.J. Schnack admits it was a hard sell.
"It's no secret that in terms of documentaries, film festivals tend to skew more toward liberal or progressive subjects," Schnack says. "I had one (programmer) tell me they couldn't stand the sight of the people in ('Caucus'). I took them at their word that that was why they weren't screening the film. I'm sure that's not the only case where that happened."
It's no accident that most film festivals originate on America's coasts. AFI Docs (Silverdocs) is headquartered in Silver Spring, MD and there is a Hollywood-New York axis of creative people in film, theater, and TV. Tribeca is a notorious left wing festival, screening several anti-Bush docs during his administration.
Conservative filmakers have far more limited opportunities to get their work shown, but there are a couple of festivals - Liberty Film Festival and American Film Renaissanceare - that feature exclusively conservative themed films. The GI Film Festival shows military themed documentaries. Beyond that, there isn't much.
It appears that conservatives are going to have to create their own outlets for artistic expression as long as the dominant cultural ideology is lefitist. It's all about stifling other points of view and few conservative artistic endeavors, be they plays, movies, TV shows, or documentaries, will find favor in the salons of the left where decisions about what is seen and what isn't are made.
Update: Dennis Michael Lynch's film did gain one festival screening. Jerry Dalton, founder of the Myrtle Beach Film Festival writes:
We screened his film at the 7th annual Myrtle Beach International Film Festival and he was offered distribution theatrically. The MBIFF has been touted as one of the top 25 film festivals to submit to by Movie Maker Magazine, plus other accolades.