Mr. Smith Makes a Movie; Jeff Smith Campaign Is Topic of Documentary

By Corrigan, Don | St. Louis Journalism Review, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Mr. Smith Makes a Movie; Jeff Smith Campaign Is Topic of Documentary


Corrigan, Don, St. Louis Journalism Review


Do you think grassroots efforts can't make a difference in politics? Some St. Louis folks are looking back nostalgically on the primary race in the 3rd District in 2004 as an example of a grassroots effort that has made a difference in the long run. And it has all been captured on film.

"Can Mr. Smith Get To Washington Anymore?" is a documentary about the 2004 Democratic primary bid of 29-year-old Jeff Smith, an underdog candidate running against a heavily favored, name-brand politician, Russ Carnahan.

Smith has no campaign dough, no political spin doctor assistants and negligible financial or moral support from his family. What he does have are energy, ideas, idealism and a group of passionate, young supporters who believe they can make a difference.

Webster Groves film producer Frank Popper found inspiration and a name for his work from Frank Capra's classic, "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington," starring the immortal Jimmy Stewart. And like Stewart's Mr. Smith, the real-life Jeff Smith comes off as a "little guy" looking out for the interests of other little guys.

Popper's film is not a movie drama like Capra's, but an intense political documentary that's already garnering rave reviews. The 82-minute piece won the Audience Award for Feature Film on June 18 at Silver-docs Film Festival in Washington. Critics are suggesting it could be an Oscar contender for Best Documentary.

"These kind of productions are not your grandparents' documentaries anymore," said Popper. "It's not like taking your medicine. And with the new documentaries, you don't have to suspend your disbelief. You are seeing real life unfold right before your eyes."

A lot of the unfolding in Popper's "Mr. Smith" film involves real local lives--folks from Webster Groves, South County and University City who were on Jeff Smith's bandwagon. Also featured are some well-known St. Louis names: Bill McClellan, Jo Mannies, Ray Hartmann, Martin Duggan, Sylvester Brown, Charles Brennan and, of course, now U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis.

Although Popper claims to not be much of a political junkie, he said his frustration with the questionable 2000 election and the policies of George W. Bush transformed him into an unhappy ranter at home.

"My son Jack got fed up with me and said: 'Why don't you use your anger and do something positive with it?'" recalled Popper. "He said I ought to make a documentary about politics.

"It wasn't too long after that when I met Jeff Smith, this Washington U. political science instructor, at a book store event," explained Popper. "He was running for Gephardt's seat. After visiting with him for less than a minute, I was impressed with his idealism. I told him I wanted to make a war-room, behind-the-scenes documentary on his campaign."

Opened Here On July 27

Two years after that book store event, Popper and his collaborators, Michael Kime, a lawyer with Sauerwein Blanchard and Kime P.C., and entrepreneur Matt Cohen, enjoyed a July 27 film opening at the Tivoli Theatre in University City. They are negotiating for showings with Landmark Theatres and for future airings on cable television.

"I liked Jeff's character and his message--fiscal conservatism and progressive social policy--but this documentary is not about hero worship," said Popper. "I set out to make a behind-the-scenes look at a campaign, but that's not the movie it turned out to be. Instead, it's about how our political system is broken and how it can be fixed."

Popper has plenty of ideas on how our political system is broken, and he rattles them off:

* A stodgy political establishment that protects its own.

* Community leaders interested in winners, rather than facing issues.

* Superficial news media coverage that avoids tough-to-explain stories. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Mr. Smith Makes a Movie; Jeff Smith Campaign Is Topic of Documentary
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.