The After Party – A MUST-SEE Documentary
The After Party, a 65 minute long documentary, was one of the films chosen to be screened at Show Me Justice Film Festival last year, 2012. It took us through events in 2004 and revealed the disturbing world of domestic surveillance and restrictions on freedom of speech post 9/11.
The After Party (2004), the third film in the trilogy, after The Last Party (1992, starring Robert Downey, Jr) and The Party’s Over (2000, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman) was helmed by veteran director Marc Levin and Michael I. Schiller, a New York–based cinematographer and editor was part of the production team. “Each film is about a different era in politics, with very different personalities investigating the democratic process. My film is unique in that the lens changes from the perspective of a superstar to that of an average guy”, said Schiller.
Originally, The After Party was an entirely different documentary. The film’s goal is to stimulate youth interest in the electoral process by following music star André 3000 as he attended the nominating conventions of the Democratic and Republican Parties in Boston and New York. However, Schiller never expected to get arrested, or fall under the huge opaque eye of the surveillance state when he and his crew were capturing the action outside the Republican National Convention, specifically that day a protest by the War Resisters League at Ground Zero, former site of the World Trade Center towers. The story pivots around Schiller’s lawsuit against the City of New York for his wrongful arrest on August 31, in New York City.
Schiller’s colleague, intern Shaina Ribby, was arrested along with other 1801 people and held for days in in an unmarked city peer in dismal conditions. Protesters were treated like animals and criminals and when video from the protest march (including footage shot by Schiller’s crew) showed the police actions to be baseless at best, city prosecutors soon backed away from criminal charges. Right before the New York Civil Liberties Union was about to go to trial in December 2006 to represent their plaintiffs, the city announced its defense would rely on an aggressive post-9/11 intelligence operation run by the New York Police Department and targeting political groups.
The city offered some 600 pages of reports generated by the intelligence operation as rationale for the indiscriminate arrest of all persons at the protest. Then NYPD revealed it had been spying without warrants on political groups, theater groups, artists, and journalists.
Schiller’s The After Party has turned the lens back on the hidden cameras and underscored that more than one trillion dollars has already been spent on the “war on terror” and 400,000 people are currently on the consolidated watch list of the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center.
Throughout the film, the fine line between Security and Freedom after 9/11 is questioned, “Are we really safe?” “Where is our freedom of speech and the right to protest?”… The After Party is “An important and powerful film about Government surveillance of American citizens, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It is a must-see film for convention time. It’s a brave and entertaining take on democracy, protest and keeping freedom free”. (Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union).
(Michael Schiller won Best Documentary Feature
@ Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood, 2011)