Former Treasury Secretary Robert Reich and director Jacob Kornbluth (Inequality For All)

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Off screen at this year's Sundance Film Festival, some attendees paused for a moment to acknowledge the second Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, on screen a number of new films grappled with issues that some are hoping will make it onto the agenda of the new administration.

On today's edition of Film Society's Daily Buzz, guests included former Treasury Secretary Robert Reich with director Jacob Kornbluth (Inequality For All), filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin (Citizen Koch), as well as filmmaker Park Chan Wook (Stoker) and Sundance Institute head Keri Putnam.

Robert Reich is pounding the pavement in Park City in an attempt to raise awareness about widening economic inequality in this country. Addressing societal economic realities just as An Inconvenient Truth raised environmental issues, Jacob Kornbluth's Inequality for All is targeted at opening the eyes of everyday Americans. Reich and the filmmakers hope to affect change by mobilizing citizens.

“We're at an extreme, economically divided moment,” explained filmmaker Kornbluth. He noted that the goal is not to divide, but rather show that the issue affects rich, poor and the middle class alike.

In the movie, Kornbluth follows Reich as he travels to advocate awareness of this divide.

“Not only are we on a path to wider inequality with concentrated income and power at the very top, but it damages our economy,” Reich explained during an interview with the Daily Buzz. “The wealthiest would do better with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy than they do now with a big share of one that's anemic.”

I wondered whether the reelected President understands the severity of the situation evidenced in Inequality for All. Reich said he's spoken with President Obama about the issue but he offered caution.

“Here's the most important thing to understand: you can have the best person as your President and great people in Washington, but if there are not good people outside Washington pushing to make good things happen then nothing good will happen,” Reich explained in the interview.

Filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin (Citizen Koch)

For Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, the story of their film Citizen Koch began four years ago when President Barack Obama was first inaugurated. They saw the extreme opinions on the right just days after his swearing in and, shortly after, they began investigating how right wing groups—some fueled by funding from the Koch brothers—were strategizing to make him a one term President. Along the way, Deal and Lessin travel to Scott Walker's Wisconsin and also talk with Republicans who are afraid that they are losing sight of the goals of their own party.

“We hope that it will engage people in conversation, at the very least,” Deal explained, adding: “We all have to hold everybody to account, including President Obama. This isn't a partisan film in that sense.”

Jacob Korbluth and Robert Reich concurred.

“Nothing changes unless people outside Washington are mobilized an organized and energized and they've got to understand the facts,” Reich concluded. “They've got to understand the truth and they've got to see the big picture and connect the dots and that's what we are trying to go.”


Critics Roundtable:
Raj Roy – MoMA

Interview: Inequality for All
Jacob Kornbluth – Director
Robert Reich – subject

Interview: Citizen Koch
Carl Deal – Director
Tia Lessin – Director

Interview: Stoker
Park Chan Wook – Director
Jeong Wonjo – Producer
Emily Wells – Musician

Festival Veteran:
Keri Putnam – Sundance Institute