FREE SPEECH ZONE | Michele Bachmann’s star turn in “Janeane from Des Moines” is among political “documentaries” screening in hurry-up weekend


Janeane from Des Moines had been looking for answers in this year’s election to all the values she holds dear. The 48-year-old  conservative Christian church-going housewife, with her truckdriver husband, beset with house foreclosure, no job, threatening health issues and facing uninsured costly mammograms, is looking for answers. She could be a Janeane from Cedar Rapids or from Minneapolis as well, facing the same questions. For urgent solutions as a Tea Party true believer, she looks to the Republican candidate who will take America back from the Democrats.

Prestigious players on the caucus trail, from Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann doing star turns, along with protagonist/Los Angeles actress Jane Edith Wilson, mark the film a conversation piece not only for political junkies and general voters but also for filmmakers and their ilk who might ponder ventures into truth vs. fiction on the screen, its mixing of real players with persons acting roles. Jane’s 10-minute session, achieved by elbowing forward through hordes in the media circus,to sit with the pseudo-compassionate La Bachmann is worth the price of admission alone, as her solution for Jane’s immediate distraught need is to just wait, Obama-care will be repealed, but meantime offering an embrace to the tearful woman. The irony of Jane’s quest will fill out the story. (We can’t give out too many spoilers).

Set during the Iowa primaries, when the blaring rhetoric was  not yet toned down ,the sharp and entertaining (depending on your politics)  indie film, “Janeane From Des Moines,” opens this weekend for a Friday through Thursday run at St.Anthony Main Screen 3. As a Michael Moore /George Çlooney foray into political “documentaries” this late in the season, falling somewhere between Roger and Me and Good Night and Good Luck, for example,  its scheduled appearance, opening New York and L.A., to swing voters before Tuesday could be questioned.

Also programming on its St. Anthony Main screen for a weekend of hurry-up politically related films are special preview screenings of the powerful “Escape Fire: the Fight to Rescue American Healthcare” debating privately-driven care vs.patient-driven care, and and the need for lifestyle change, following a series of dramatic human stories in “saving the health of the nation” (says the publicity release).  Screenings: 7 p.m. Friday (2d) , 4 pm Sunday, with theatrical opening Nov.9-15. The was co-directed by Susan Froemke, colleague of longtime U.S doc filmmaking legend Al Maysles (Gimme Shelter; Grey Gardens).

A special screening will also be held 7 pm Saturday and 4 pm Sunday of “Suddenly, Last Winter” an Italian documentary on gay rights but anticipating at home the Tuesday ballot amendment (from the directors of this year’s  Mpls/St.Paul Int’l Festival Hit “Italy: Love It or Leave It”). 

Korean-American filmmaker Grace Lee, 32, along with actress Wilson will be on hand for the 7pm Sunday show to discuss how and why so many news sources on the Iowa campaign stops were taken in by  the tongue-in-cheek “Janeane…” ,which gained notoriety after its Toronto Film Festival debut in September, where the film got booed in the heated conversation following. ( Some audiences, viewers, have genre expectations). 

Ms Lee, growing up in Columbia,Missouri, first made her mark with “The Grace Lee Project” exploring stereotypes about the “exemplary Asia woman,” (they were nice, demure and all played piano?) dozens all named Grace Lee like her. She will discuss her interests in guerrilla filmmaking and the gap between political  rhetoric and ordinary citizens.  What she sees as the election’s political theater is expanded in a new film about a 97-year-old Detroit Chinese/American activist, another Grace Lee, who has spearheaded a drive to revive the city.

As for Ms Wilson and a touted Oscar-worthy performance (she’s actually a socially progressive Episcopalian who originally comes from Iowa), Minneapolis is the last leg of a nationwide tour of both with the film. (The actress is widely known on the L.A. improve comedy circuit and numerous t.v.shows, including “Seinfeld.”

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