Dark Money (2018)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.  

USA, 2018.  Big Sky Film Productions, Big Mouth Productions, Meerkat Media Collective.  Screenplay by Kimberly Reed, Jay Arthur Sterrenberg.  Cinematography by Eric Phillips-Horst, Kimberly Reed, Jay Arthur Sterrenberg.  Produced by Katy Chevigny.  Music by Miriam Cutler.  Film Editing by Jay Arthur Sterrenberg.  

Campaign financing, as Ann Ravel puts it in this eyepopping documentary, is the gateway issue to just about every other crisis facing American politics today.  The state of Montana is proud of its history as a pioneer in dealing with this matter, noticing the corrupt influence of its copper barons on the state’s governance almost a hundred years ago and enacting laws to limit the amount of money that corporations can give to political campaigns.   The results of the Citizens United case brought to the Supreme Court has chipped away at the country’s protections against this kind of undue influence, something that Montana has felt sharply as their local elections have been marred by a number of nasty smear campaigns taking the form of posters, commercials and postcards making extreme allegations about candidates.  The unsettling aspect of the situation is that the majority of these campaigns are funded by companies that can’t be traced, the “dark money” of the title is the possibility that billionaires with an interest in maintaining control over election outcomes are laundering their contributions through these bogus organizations.  Beginning with Montana and branching out to other states and local governments, director Kimberly Reed examines a number of situations that the Supreme Court decision has put in motion, having at its centre the tale of journalist John Adams, whose dedication to this issue has a devastating effect on his life.  The connection between crooked campaign funding and the country’s general culture of capitalist ambition isn’t examined in this film, and it would be worth knowing why it is that people who receive pamphlets with some pretty outrageous statements on them can’t spot a fake, but that’s not to say this isn’t a fascinating viewing experience with some pretty damning revelations about modern day American life.

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