As Goes Janesville in Chicago Magazine; Tim Cullen goes indie

Set to air on PBS Independent Lens on Monday November 5th, Kartemquin's next release is As Goes Janesville, a co-production with 371 Productions.


Well ahead of that broadcast on the eve of the 2012 Election, the film - which depicts the struggles of business leaders and union workers to rebuild their lives and the town's finances after the 2008 closure of a GM plant - has been thrust into Wisconsin's turbulent political debates.


First it caused a stir before the state's June recall election by releasing a demo containing incendiary footage of Governor Scott Walker stating he would use a "divide and conquer" strategy against unions, and now one of the film's lead characters, State Senator Tim Cullen, is racking up the column inches after announcing he may leave the Democratic Party to operate as an Independent.


As Goes Janesville director Brad Lichtenstein notes that this decision is in keeping with the film's depiction of Cullen: "Tim is an iconoclast. That's why he's at the center of As Goes Janesville. His differences with his party can be traced at least to the standoff between Wisconsin's Senate Dems and Governor Scott Walker over collective bargaining — that standoff that catapulted Wisconsin to national news as millions of protesters filled the streets of Madison and eventually forced an historic recall election. At the time Tim was secretly negotiating a settlement with Governor Walker's chief of staff, but the Democratic leader, Mark Miller, scuttled the talks by releasing a letter that accused the Governor of refusing to negotiate despite the fact that such talks were underway. We may never know if that ended the negotiations or if it gave the Governor cover he wanted to end the negotiations, but we do know that the rest is history. Think what you might of Tim's decision to negotiate at the time, one thing is for sure: he's "his own man". He's the guy that Walker dismissed as "a pragmatist" when he was recorded talking to a reporter posing as a Koch brother. As you can see in our film, Tim is an animated character who provides great insight into the themes we explore in our documentary: the plight of the middle class, political polarization and the future of labor. It will be interesting indeed to see what unfolds with this new development."


You can follow the active debates over what this will mean for Wisconsin's political balance over at the As Goes Janesville Facebook page. Ahead of the PBS broadcast, the film will also be playing a number of festivals this fall - watch this space for confirmation details soon.


The film is also featured in the August edition of Chicago Magazine, which highlights the film's place in the Kartemquin tradition of documenting Labor struggles, and at the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters.