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The Other Kind of Documentary

Nothing energizes a web video producer more than showing their film to a live audience, and the Anthem Film Festival at FreedomFest is an event unlike any other. The indomitable Jo Ann Skousen, director of the festival, generously gave us a sneak peek screening and a lunchtime encore with a panel.

An impromptu whiskey tasting greeted filmgoers eager for “liquid lunch.” We sampled Four Roses Yellow Label, High West Double Rye, and Battlehill Laphroaig.

“The Marvels of Free Markets” panel featured venerable triathlete Kent Lassman (President of CEI), whiskey aficionado Lawson Bader (President of DonorsTrust), gregarious wit Jeffrey Tucker (Chief Liberty Officer at Liberty.me), and spirited sage Lawrence Reed (President of the Foundation for Economic Education).

I, Whiskey,” moderator Drew Tidwell reminded the audience, “wasn’t made for FreedomFest. It’s a radical story of capitalism, that doesn’t use the word capitalism. We chose to reach out to audiences who don’t know that capitalism is one of the greatest forces for good in the world.”

“The world needs 500 more I, Whiskey’s!” concluded Jeffrey Tucker. Incrementally, story by story we can change the dialogue. He reminisced about an old friend who suggested trying the nearly lost, southern tradition of bourbon-laced coffee at 8am. This was his conversion, on the road to Damascus. Afterwards, he began to question: were the choices he made his heart’s desire, or the product of rather arbitrary societal norms?

“Who was that gentleman who said that whiskey brings a sense of sacredness to our lives?” he asked. Fred Smith (pictured above)! For me, and others, this line is the heart of the film. Combined with the visuals, this line makes the film, the poem I have never been able to write.

In the context of other festival entries, I, Whiskey stands out, not only for its high production value, but in tone and content. Lengthy documentaries about human rights violations, incarceration rates, suppressed free speech, and racial identity politics dominate.

I have the deepest respect for filmmakers who have access to tackle these horror stories and who create awareness. Often, however, watching these films leaves one discouraged, angry, and hopeless. While I, Whiskey wasn’t made for this audience, we too, need the counterpoint of hope in this film. Something must encourage us—the struggle is long and wearying.

The late economist Hans Rosling, knew it. He insisted on showing people, every way he could, that capitalism can solve problems. He didn’t ignore the world’s horrors. He confronted them eloquently, with hopeful statistics. We must continue his tradition. We must inspire people with the tool that conquers these horrors.

A persistent questioner during the Q and A wanted to discuss vodka in communist Russia, claiming that unlike today’s U.S. whiskey drinkers profiled in the film, “they weren’t celebrating!” He angrily insisted on darkness. “The difference is attitudinal,” stated Kent Lassman. Of course their vodka wasn’t consumed in the spirit of celebration. Oppressed, they had no other means of escape.

We don’t pretend our world doesn’t contain sorrow, but does anyone hear you if your story is only, and always darkness? We must keep telling both stories, because we need all of it, horrors exposed, and hope celebrated. No one thrives on a diet of just one viewpoint.

Now the only question is…how do you hope? Where do you see the marvels of capitalism transforming our world? We want to tell your story for the next film in the “I” series.

We ask you to weigh in, share your ideas. If we pick your idea you’ll receive a film credit and a bottle of whiskey.

Send your inspiration to: helen@passinglanefilms.com.