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Originally published Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 10:05 PM

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‘Citizen Koch’ looks at politics of big money, falls short

A review of “Citizen Koch,” a documentary that follows a conservative advocacy group funded by the billionaires David and Charles Koch, and shows the limits of what an individual can do in the face of well-financed opposition.


The New York Times

Movie Review

Citizen Koch,’ a documentary directed by Carl Deal and Tia Lessin. 90 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Sundance Cinemas. On Saturday, June 28, Deal will be present for a Q&A following the 6:55 p.m. show and will introduce the 9:30 p.m. show.

The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.

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Part of the impact of “Citizen Koch” comes from juxtaposing average Americans with the moneyed interests that grip today’s political process.

When we see a Republican in Wisconsin weighing her dissatisfaction with her party and her stance on abortion, it’s an inspiring sight of a citizen at work, grappling in good faith with the situation at hand. It’s a world away from the documentary’s portrayal of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group funded by the billionaires David and Charles Koch.

The limits of what an individual can do in the face of well-financed opposition are shown throughout Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s film, a jumbled look at the effects of the Citizens United Supreme Court campaign-finance case through the lens of Wisconsin’s recent history.

The filmmakers weave together the attempt in 2012 to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker over his aggressive stance on unions and other issues; glimpses of Americans for Prosperity and the tea-party movement; and the campaign of Buddy Roemer for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

But their movie, which starts off shakily, is naggingly diffuse and bumps up against the problem of recounting the freshly remembered past.

Scattered throughout are moments that stick out like provocations (such as an excerpt from a conservative lecture that sounds anti-Semitic), some juicy clandestine recordings and too many protest sign montages. It’s a hodgepodge that Michael Moore (whose movies Lessin and Deal have produced) and his editors might snappily dice together, but here the construction falls short.



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