One of the truisms of the extreme right and its corporate backers is that, while they may own networks and demagogue on talk radio, they are incapable of making films that anyone wants to watch. After Fahrenheit 9/11 broke all documentary box office records and won the Palm D’Or at Cannes, for example, the right tried to counter with bomb after bomb after bomb. Very silly films.
They are so bad at filmmaking that the only way they get into theaters is to purchase advertising. In fact, we’ve covered the tone-deaf U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s pre-movie ad campaign, which forced audiences who had paid good money to see a high-quality film, forced to watch ads about why lawsuits by average working families against corporate wrongdoers are today’s most serious problem.
But while the Chamber was up to no good at the movies, an attorney turned filmmaker from Oregon, Susan Saladoff, began the painstaking process of making a quality documentary film, the goal of which was to blow a hole through the “tort reform” movement. That included confronting the Chamber directly.
America, take notice. Susan's film, Hot Coffee, has made it into the this year’s Sundance Film Festival and it premieres today. In an interview, Sundance Documentary Programming experts David Courier and Caroline Lebresco, said about Hot Coffee,
DC: It grabbed me because I completely bought in to the idea of, for instance, that McDonalds’ court case, as one of those frivolous lawsuits that’s clogging our judicial system and just doing the rest of us citizens a disservice. Well, that’s exactly what McDonalds wants us to think, and all major corporations. They hire media to craft the theme around that so that it gets disseminated through society and people buy it.
ATWT: And then you have people who opine, “oh, poor McDonalds has to put on their cup of coffee that it’s hot or someone will sue them”.
CL: Like oh, how is someone so stupid. But, in truth, she was seriously injured from it and she didn’t get that much and she actually had a case. And we all deserve, when there are valid cases, to be able to bring them to court.
DC: Because corporations have everything else. Because of lobbyists, they basically own government in so many ways. Access to the courts is a fundamental thing.
The film features many people familiar to ThePopTort: Jamie Leigh Jones and Senator Al Franken; Rep. Bruce Braley; the Gourleys from Nebraska; and Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director of the Center for Justice & Democracy, who testified in Congress last week.
Congratulations to Susan, and to everyone who contributed to the making of Hot Coffee. We wish this film the best of luck!
(Image courtesy of the Sundance Institute)