The Ghost of Joe McCarthy in Alan Magee's "Party Line"
Screening at the Camden International Film Festival -
Thursday, September 25, 2014 7:18 AM
"Our party line. Our party line. They've got your meta data. They know you're a friend of mine. Make like you've gone out to lunch and keep it bland and plain. You could end up on a no-fly list or on the red eye to Bahrain."
Alan Magee’s “Party Line” will screen on Saturday, September 27, at 1 p.m. at the Strand Theatre in Rockland and again on Sunday, September 28, at 1 p.m. at the Farnsworth Art Museum.
So goes the chorus of "Party Line," the satiric music video on mass government surveillance written and performed by Cushing-based artist Alan Magee. The 3-minute song, complemented with Magee's quirky cartoon images, explores the chilling effect surveillance policies like NSA wiretapping have on serious discussions of social change that challenge the dominant power structure.
"Anybody from kindergarten on realizes that you behave differently if you're being watched," said Magee. "I think that creative responses to the world require working things out in privacy in private conversations. If it affects private conversation then it's certainly going to affect public policy too."
The film playfully intersperses lessons his mother taught him about eavesdropping to images of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose Communist witch hunt in the 1950s effectively supressed political movements. As Magee notes, the demagogue was famously brought down by attorney Joseph Welch's immortal line, "Have you no sense of decency?"
"This would have been very much like my mother would have said. . . . It would be quite indecent to pick up the phone and hear a neighbor talking and listen in," said Magee. "It's tying in McCarthy to today and also to almost a kind of elementary sense of right and wrong."
"Party Line" is Magee's second short film fusing wit and humor with politically charged commentary in the vein of 1960s protest singer Phil Ochs. In 2013, Magee, who is also a renowned painter and illustrator, released his first music video, "Gun Shop," a darkly humorous critique of gun culture in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. Magee says prior to beginning his career as an artist, he was also a songwriter, but has recently rediscovered the medium. And given the times we live in, he says there's plenty of material for socio-political satirists to work with.
"People who are interested in reading and journalism, we're probably pretty sheltered with the friends that we have and we assume that everybody recognizes [the McCarthy-era] was a shameful time," said Magee. "But in an odd way, history keeps folding back and I think sometimes ignorance about things is kind of the default position.""Party Line" will screen on Saturday, September 27, at 1 p.m. at the Strand Theatre in Rockland in conjunction with James Spione's "Silenced," a documentary exploring the crackdown on whistleblowers inside the U.S. government's national security establishment following the September 11 attacks. It will show again on Sunday, September 28, at 1 p.m. at the Farnsworth Art Museum as part of CIFF's local short film program, Dirigo Shorts.
Local Films to Screen at CIFF's Dirigo Shorts
The following short local films will also be screening at the Farnsworth Art Museum on Sunday, September 28, at 1 p.m. as part of the Camden International Film Festival's Dirigo Shorts program.
Bridge Tender (Hunter Snyder) - A study of the confluence of monotony, choreography, and spectacle in labor, "Bridge Tender" is an opening and closing sequence of Maine's last manually operated swing bridge.
No Exit (David Redmon, Ashley Sabin) - Presenting a convolution of extended long takes, "No Exit" immerses viewers into the wetness and spatial disorientation of the subjects' lives in this experiential documentary.
The Hermit (Lena Friedrich) - For 27 years, the enigmatic "North Pond Hermit" had been living in the woods with no human contact. "The Hermit" exposes in a humorous way how a man who tried in the most extreme way to disconnect from society unintentionally became a nationwide celebrity and made his mark on a whole community.
Katah-din (Taylor Dunne) - Molly Spotted Elk was born into a Penobscot tribe in Maine and throughout her life provided a doorway between worlds. She recorded the creation history of her people in a book and simultaneously portrayed the Native American stereotype at nightclubs in New York, Paris, and most notably as Neewa in H.P. Carver's 1930 film "The Silent Enemy." The figure of Molly is used as a lens to examine the process of erasure, and restores something that has been lost in American history but hidden in plain sight.