Movement Pictures; 'Border' Warrior David Bossie Leads the Right into Documentary Films

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 1, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Movement Pictures; 'Border' Warrior David Bossie Leads the Right into Documentary Films


Byline: Scott Galupo, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

"This is the greatest job ever," David Bossie crows. "Here, let me show you something."

Mr. Bossie is president of the conservative grass-roots organization Citizens United, headquartered in a converted town house in Southeast, near Lincoln Park. Burly and brimming with enthusiasm, he leads me outside his office to a round table on which there are several items. You could call them Mr. Bossie's hats. "I like to think of it as my toolbox," the Montgomery County volunteer firefighter says.

There's a paperback copy of one of the books he has written. A policy paper with Citizens United letterhead. An amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court.

And, strangely enough, movie posters.

Ever since waking up one morning in the summer of 2004, sweating the apparent success of Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," Mr. Bossie has been pioneering for conservatives a form of advocacy that once was virtually the exclusive preserve of liberals - point-of-view documentaries.

First and most urgently came the rebuttal to Michael Moore, "Celsius 41.11: The Temperature at Which the Brain Begins to Die."

"I really was trying in my mind to discount the importance of 'Fahrenheit 9/11,[ " Mr. Bossie recalls.

"Like a lot of people in Washington, I was hoping and expecting that his film, which may make him a little bit of money, wouldn't necessarily have that big of an impact. I just recognized the fact that it did: It became part of the fabric, the culture, of the campaign itself."

After "Celsius" (a minuscule, 130-screen release, "It didn't get anywhere near the attention that 'Fahrenheit' did," Mr. Bossie concedes) came a critical history of the United Nations, pegged to the organization's 60th anniversary last year, "Broken Promises: The United Nations at 60," a straight-to-DVD release.

The latest offering from Citizens United Productions, as the organization's filmmaking arm is known, is a gripping multiangle look at the self-defeating state of U.S. immigration policy, "Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration." It premiered in Los Angeles last night and, after stops in border cities such as San Diego, Phoenix and Nogales, Ariz., will debut Sept. 13 in Washington.

Like the rest of the conservative media counterestablishment, Mr. Bossie started his project in a vacuum. No sooner did he decide to try to challenge Mr. Moore in his own medium than he realized there was no infrastructure to support him.

So he went to the Citizens United board and pitched the idea of building it from scratch: "I said, 'There's nobody else to do it. I don't know the first thing about it, but I'll hire people who do."

With the November presidential election looming, time was short.

One of Mr. Bossie's Hollywood contacts, screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd, told him to take the next flight to Los Angeles - "and bring your checkbook."

Haste and inexperience led to a bloated budget for "Celsius." It was the price of an education. Mr. Bossie, as executive producer, learned he could streamline the filmmaking process and, most important, eschew the West Coast altogether. He built a studio in the basement of Citizens United's headquarters, where six staffers work full time on movies. ("ACLU: At War With America" is due this fall; a Hillary Clinton documentary, starring Dick Morris, is in the pipeline for next year.)

"Technology," Mr. Bossie explains, "has moved dramatically forward in the last four or five years. Clearly, you have to have talent to use the equipment, but you can do just about anything on the fly. You can edit a movie on a laptop."

Take away its filmmaking enterprise, and the 300,000-member Citizens United looks like a fairly typical Washington outfit.

It has about a dozen full-time employees. It tracks controversial cases through the federal courts.

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