(San Francisco, CA) — Frank Popper’s acclaimed CAN MR. SMITH GET TO WASHINGTON ANYMORE? will have its television premiere on the Emmy-Award winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Terrence Howard, on Tuesday, February 27, 2007, at 10:30pm (check local listings).
CAN MR. SMITH GET TO WASHINGTON ANYMORE? follows the 2004 Missouri Democratic primary to replace retiring 28-year veteran and former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt. It is told from inside the campaign of Jeff Smith, a 29-year-old part-time political science instructor at Washington University. The leading candidate is State Representative Russ Carnahan, scion of Missouri’s most powerful political dynasty. As one political analyst says: “The Carnahan name is to Missouri what the Kennedy name is to Massachusetts.” Carnahan’s record is thin, his public performances are weak and his campaign is uninspired. But his family’s strong establishment ties provide him fundraising connections and near universal name recognition.
As the early front-runner Carnahan holds a 40-point lead over Jeff, who enters the race with no money, no political base and no name recognition. His staff is a hodge-podge of political nobodies, mostly former students. From his humble beginnings and in the face of constant resistance from the political establishment, voters, the media and even his own family, Jeff mobilizes an army of nearly 500 volunteers, generating a youth-oriented grassroots insurgency that ultimately poses a serious challenge to Carnahan and, in the process, overturns the conventional wisdom that Carnahan is unbeatable.
The film questions how we elect our political leaders by showing that candidates with access to power and money have significant advantages over any contenders, regardless of their abilities. It shows what confronts fresh political faces with new ideas and passionate supporters when they go head-to-head against a political system that maintains power by manipulating a largely apathetic electorate. The film offers an unvarnished look at the inside of what national pundits called one of 2004’s surprising campaigns. And the film asks if it is still possible in America for voters excited by a person’s ideas and ability to get involved in the political process and elect a candidate who has not sold out or bought into the existing political establishment.
The CAN MR. SMITH GET TO WASHINGTON ANYMORE? interactive companion website (pbs.org/mrsmith) features detailed information on the film, including an interview with the filmmaker and links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film and more.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER
Frank Popper wandered into a photo lab while teaching high school English in St. Louis. Seeing the magic of his friend’s print come to life took his professional life in a new direction—from photography to award-winning multi-image productions to film. Popper produced The Lounge People, a feature starring Buck Henry and Christine Ebersole, which aired on Starz. He was principal videographer of Eroica!, a documentary that aired on PBS’s Independent Lens. CAN MR. SMITH GET TO WASHINGTON ANYMORE? is his first feature length documentary.
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