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The Kingdom of Survival

A moderately interesting sampler of voices on the American left, "The Kingdom of Survival" weakens its good intentions with an all-too-common documentary fault: the filmmaker as gratuitous star.

With:
With: Noam Chomsky, Joe Bageant, Mark Mirabello, Mike Oehler, Bob Meisenbach, Will "the Bull" Taylor, Sasha Lilley, Ramsey Kanaan, M.A. Littler. (English dialogue)

A moderately interesting sampler of voices on the American left, “The Kingdom of Survival” weakens its good intentions with an all-too-common documentary fault: the filmmaker as gratuitous star. Writer-director M.A. Littler appears between each segment of this “7,400-mile journey in search of radical and alternative perspectives on the 21st century,” his self-conscious Johnny Cash-styled cool — complete with all-black attire, shades, mutton-chop sideburns and honky-tonk theme music — infusing the pic with an unfortunate vanity-project patina. This U.S.-German co-production has been picked up by 7th Art Stateside, but seems better suited to Eurotube sales.

Littler’s roadtrip starts out on the East Coast, with insights on capitalism from Noam Chomsky, then on class divisions from self-proclaimed redneck Joe Bageant. He then visits Ohio (academic Mark Mirabello), Idaho (where “die-hard hippie” Mike Oehler has founded a unique progressive community), San Francisco (pioneering 1960s student activist Bob Meisenbach), and Oakland (anarchist couple Sasha Lilley and Ramsey Kanaan). Finally there’s folk-musician/cattle-rancher Will Taylor, an antidote (“It’s like karma, man”) to all this articulate intellect. Public-domain archival clips, split-screen effects and Phil Koepsell’s widescreen lensing are excellent, but Littler’s onscreen presence is a constant distraction.

The Kingdom of Survival

U.S.-Germany

Production: A 7th Art Releasing (in U.S.) release of a Slowboat Films presentation. Produced by Alexander Hebert. Executive producers, Hebert, M.A. Littler, Philip Koepsell, Markus Michael. Co-producer, Sebastian Weidenbach. Directed, written by M.A. Littler.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen HD), Philip Koepsell; editor, Koepsell; music, the Redemption Family. Reviewed at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, July 23, 2012. (Also in 2011 Montreal World, Raindance film festivals.) Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Noam Chomsky, Joe Bageant, Mark Mirabello, Mike Oehler, Bob Meisenbach, Will "the Bull" Taylor, Sasha Lilley, Ramsey Kanaan, M.A. Littler. (English dialogue)

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