by Matthew Hunt
“Take action now or complain later.”
This is the mantra of the very active cast of “Tea Party: The Documentary Film,” an array of regular people who’ve had enough with the taxing of their tea.*
* (note: ‘tea’ is here being used as a metaphor for life, and does not refer to – as in 1773 – actual, sippable tea).
From the opening montage, we are asked whether our society depends on grassroots involvement to make a difference, and from the opening montage, we are thrust into the worlds of those who firmly believe the answer to that is yes.
These people are an average bunch: A young black man who voted for Obama and then felt robbed after a $787 billion stimulus bill and bailouts of the automotive and financial industries; an urologist with concerns about the health care plan; and, a wife and husband forced out of their business and home…
Ordinary, yes, but it’s their normalcy that makes this extraordinary protest movement special, and their commonality that has caused the Tea Party phenomenon to sweep the country.
The speed of the movement is well captured in the pacing of the film, with a nice snowball effect happening as we cut back and forth between the activists on their journey(s) to persuade and be heard. Each scene percolates with the energy of their convictions, only to build and build and finally culminate in footage from the largest tea party rally in Washington D.C. on Sept. 12, 2009.
The footage is powerful. We see thousands of folks appearing out of the woodwork in cities all over the country. We listen in on passionate arguments and then get in the heads of those arguing. We witness thousands of teeming patriots teaming up outside town halls all over the country.
The movie is not without its lighthearted moments. One such image comes to mind, of a character in full colonial dress standing at an old shipping crate marked “Tea” with an American flag as his backdrop.
The ideologically charged blogs have both praised and preyed on the construction of this movie, and though they have found scraps of ethno-demographic material on which to comment, the bulk of the movie is as the producer describes it: “politically and religiously neutral” – a stunning feat, considering the potentially explosive subject matter. Indeed, one could fault the documentary for not diving into the mindset of non-participants, but this omission seems less overlooked than unnecessary, for it seems there really are no dissenters, just individuals who have yet to be persuaded.
“It’s not a partisan thing,” says Jack, a father of two and former Democrat turned Constitutionalist, “it’s taking control away from them and saying this is what you do for us.”
And, that’s what this documentary is about. The little guy. The armchair politicians who are tired of yelling at the TV. The fight for the focus to be put on the first word of the Constitution: WE.
This is the story of the sleeping giant that is the American people hoping to wrest some power back from the government they created.
It’s inspiring to see these patriots standing up for their cause. In the words of the doctor criticizing the government’s rationing of health care, “someone needs to step up, if not me, who?”