Robert Greenwald is a successful director in television and film with many nominations and awards under his belt. Around five years ago, he turned to political documentaries with his exposé on Fox News called Outfoxed; Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. That was only the beginning. Since Outfoxed, Greenwald and his team have made hundreds of short videos, as well as full-length films, that have reached millions of viewers worldwide.
Welcome to OpEdNews, Robert. In recent years, you’ve channeled your success in television and film into filmmaking with a more pointed political agenda. What was the impetus for this change?
I fell in love with documentaries as an art form and as an avenue for creating change. It became a natural path for me to focus on creating documentaries with a more political agenda, so I could have an active hand in effecting this change and helping to inform people.
How did you come up with the revolutionary idea of combining short films and the internet?
The internet is a great tool for democracy, with people spreading information and ideas to their peers quickly and easily. Putting short films on the internet is relatively inexpensive and viewers can watch it for free. Also, people have short attention spans when it comes to the internet, so making short films that were concise, engaging, and accessible seemed like a likely next step for us.
How much has Brave New Films grown since its inception?
It’s grown by leaps and bounds. We started with a small company of three people, and we’ve since developed into a fully staffed, mid-sized non-profit.
Where do you get your funding? What organizations do you work with to promote your progressive agenda? (Would you agree that it’s a progressive agenda?)
A good question! We get a lot of our funding through our “Producers Program.” We have a very large list of folks who sign up on an email list to receive updates, and they help fund a lot of our projects through small direct online contributions. We also work with different organizations, depending on the specific issue we’re tackling. Additionally, we do a lot of work with foundations. Funding is always a challenge and we spend lots of time working to fund raise for our work.
You’ve done hundreds of short films on a range of topics. Many of them fall within a few categories: corporate greed in all its guises, inappropriate political candidates, incumbents, or appointees, victims of public policy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now health care legislation. How do you decide on a subject?
We draw from many sources. First, our great staff, which is very much committed to issues of social justice, and contribute an endless amount of great ideas for important subjects to cover. Second, we draw from the issues currently being debated by the public and in Congress, issues that affect millions of people (like our current discussion on health care reform).
Finally, we are always focused on what is not being discussed, what is not being exposed. In regards to healthcare, we wanted to show the CEO profits specifically because it was not being talked about. This was the same goal we had with Fox News when we started, as well as McCain’s mansions.
In Sick for Profit, your latest initiative, you have teamed up withThe American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and Herndon Alliance. Who are they and what do they want?
A new video puts denied health insurance claims on United Health Care CEO Stephen Hemsley’s doorstep.
The video, made by Brave News Films’ Robert Greenwald, intercuts stories of people suffering because of denied claims with images Hemsley’s fancy homes, along with details about how much money Hemsley’s got ($744,232,068 in unexercised stock options, for example).
Holly Bailey says in the video that United Health Care refused to pay for medicine she couldn’t live without.
“They kept telling my local pharmacy…’Oh we’re just waiting for one more letter, or we’re just waiting for one more script, and then we’ll start paying,’” Bailey said. “This went on for six months, and December 4th both the pharmacy and I received a letter from United Health Care saying they deemed it medically unnecessary and that they were not going to pay any of it.
White House says shrill opposition and an August pause help the president’s health-care plan — Insurers, conservative groups provide talking points for town halls — Burton on Twitter
“SICK FOR PROFIT” VIDEO SERIES — from release: “As Congress breaks for recess and the health insurance industry prepares to blitz the American public with attack ads on health care reform, Brave New Films kicks off its new ‘Sick for Profit’ online campaign at http://sickforprofit.com. The first video contrasts the lavish lifestyle and extravagant earnings of United Health Group’s (UHG) CEO with their policyholders, who suffer from severe medical conditions but have been denied proper medical care.”
Bernie Sanders, the iconoclastic US senator from Vermont, is launching his own series of weekly “webisodes” where he will answer questions from constituents.
Sanders, the only avowed Socialist in Congress, is partnering with Brave New Films in the venture, called “Senator Sanders Unfiltered.”
A trailer shows Sanders railing against greed and economic inequality, arguing that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing too much money, and assailing insurance companies for lobbying Congress to stop healthcare overhaul that provides universal, affordable coverage.
The first webisode will be available on his Senate website on Monday, then subsequent ones regularly on Thursdays.
Constituents can submit video questions via Twitter on twitvid.com by using the #sanders tag, and Sanders’ office is encouraging them to share the trailer video via Facebook and other social networking sites.
By Shannon Tolson at Lake County News
CLEARLAKE – Remember the quagmire of Vietnam? Remember the quagmire that is our military operation in Iraq? Remember the costs in lives and pain on both sides? Are you ready to do it all over again?
The fine documentary, “Rethink Afghanistan” – which is being made and released as a series in “real time” – urges you and every other US citizen to think twice, or three times, before we send our money and our family members into that wild and forbidding country. We will screen at least parts one through four.
Robert Greenwald, the respected director of such films as “Iraq for Sale” and “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” is asking critically important questions about the wisdom of conducting any US military operations at all in Afghanistan. And he’s listening to the answers of many experts from Afghanistan itself, and from Pakistan (Afghanistan’s deeply unstable and nuclear-armed neighbor).
He’s asking expert journalists and those who know the country well. He’s asking experts who know exactly how much the citizens of Montgomery, Alabama will pay to bomb people in Afghanistan. He’s also gone there repeatedly to film what’s happening – and as soon as he has more film and more information, he puts it together and sends it out. That’s why it’s in “real time.”
This film doesn’t look back, with intelligent and informed regret years later, telling us what mistakes were made. This film shows us what’s happening right now and says, in essence, do not do it, and here’s exactly why.
Health care reform and Brave New Films
“I spend 40 percent of my time away from my patients doing paperwork and getting prior authorizations,” said Jim King, MD, a family physician in Selmer, Tenn. “We need to start taking the barriers that are between me and my patients away.”
At the same time American people were unwittingly forced to ‘bail out’ banks and insurance companies to the tune of 11 trillion dollars, those same companies were giving themselves a reported $33 Billion dollars in bonuses.
These catastrophically corrupt financial and medical systems are broken and apparently those who represent the common good are not going to fix it alone.
Activist and hero Robert Greenwald is doing something about it and you can too. His company Brave New Films, is affording Americans a way to gather forces and expose toxic tumors in what we wrongly term (in our oh so accepted double speak) the ‘health care’ system. It is in fact a sick care system. It doesn’t work for the majority of Americans. As countries go for health care, we are very near the bottom of the pile.
Can 450,000 doctors who are dealing with the medical and insurance system every day, be wrong? The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and Herndon Alliance (a nonpartisan coalition of more than 200 health-care provider organizations including the AARP, Mayo Clinic and Families USA) want health care reform.
The two groups are natural and historical allies. But the Feminist Majority has now endorsed President Obama’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan — arguing that the administration’s new strategy is necessary to prevent the return of the brutal oppression of women by the Taliban regime.
The Afghan Women’s Mission, along with an associated Afghan feminist group, contends that more troops and more fighting will only result in further casualties on both sides and fuel the already-flourishing insurgency.
[C]oalition troops are combat forces and are there to fight a war, not to preserve peace… Women always disproportionately suffer the effects of war, and to think that women’s rights can be won with bullets and bloodshed is a position dangerous in its naïveté.
Kolhatkar, in a subsequent interview with the Huffington Post, added that the withdrawal of U.S. troops would actually “take away the rationale of the Taliban: the foreign occupiers.”
Feminist Majority founder Ellie Smeal and board member Helen Cho responded in turn, writing that “recently these terrorists have destroyed hundreds of girls schools, killed journalists, local women’s leaders and killed women teachers in front of their students.”
“If the U.S. was to pull out of Afghanistan,” they warned, “the United States would be once again breaking its promise to the Afghan people, and the country would likely fall under Taliban control.”
By Sarah Jaffe at The Nation
George W. Bush used the plight of the women of Afghanistan as justification for invasion, and afterward trumpeted their freedom as a major success. But day-to-day life for Afghan women has not improved much, despite nominal representation in government. Domestic violence, self-harm, and the US-backed president Hamid Karzai signed into law a repressive act that effectively legalized marital rape. Afghanistan’s Chief Justice has said that women have two rights: the right to obey their husbands, and the right to pray–though they do not have the right to pray in a mosque with men.
In this video, the fifth in the Rethink Afghanistan series, Afghan women speak out against a buildup of US troops, noting that the militarization only legitimizes the Taliban as an opposition force. Rather than supporting military escalation, the women of Afghanistan can use your donations to help themselves. As Orzala Ashraf of the Afghan Women’s Network says in the film, “If I cannot liberate myself, no one from outside can liberate me.”
Check out earlier videos on Afghanistan from The Nation and Brave New Films