Guest Blogger – Michael Schiller
Our guest blogger series continues with the following post by filmmaker and journalist Michael Schiller. In discussing his documentary THE LAST PARTY, Schiller highlights the thin line between security and freedom.
The Show Me Justice Film Festival was a great screening for THE AFTER PARTY. Thanks for letting me guest blog. This is the trailer for the film. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuF3ROVl7-Q
If that caught your interest, you can watch the feature film for free here. Please do, and come back to the blog post after for the big reveal about what happened after the film.
For those who haven’t seen the film, THE AFTER PARTY is a documentary feature film about a journalist who is caught in a mass arrest while filming a protest at Ground Zero. His film crew’s videotape of the incident leads to a civil rights lawsuit, uncovers a police spying ring and launches his personal investigation in to the weird world of domestic surveillance. With special appearances by Andre ’3000′ Benjamin, Barack Obama, The Bush Twins, Cornel West, Al Sharpton and Don King.
Oh, by the way, that journalist is me.
In 1993 the film THE LAST PARTY was released. The documentary followed Robert Downey Jr’s initiation in to the world of politics. In 2000 came the sequel, THE PARTY’S OVER, following Philip Seymour Hoffman on the campaign trail. The third film in the trilogy, THE AFTER PARTY features Andre ’3000′ Benjamin in a story about domestic surveillance and civil liberties in the post 9-11 era, framed by an inciting incident that happened during his political sojourn.
In August of 2004, during the course of the Republican National Convention in New York City, over 1800 people were arrested. The police used orange construction netting to arrest large groups of people. I was working on a film about Andre 3000 of Outkast and was caught in one of these nets while filming a protest at Ground Zero. Our film crew’s tape became instrumental evidence in a lawsuit by the NYCLU against the city. Schiller vs. the City of New York is a landmark first amendment case that uncovered a warrantless police spying operation. This film takes a hard look at the precariously thin line we walk between security and freedom and examines the resurgence of domestic surveillance in America.
The 2004 protests were a dry run for the way the Occupy Wall Street protests were policed. And since THE AFTER PARTY came out, the NYPD was exposed for its large-scale surveillance of Brooklyn’s Muslim community, a place we visit in the film. And of course, Snowden and the NSA scandal broke long after we theorized in the film that the NSA was spying domestically.
So this project is a snapshot of our culture around the turn of the millennium. America continues to struggle with the balance between security and freedom and it seems to be getting worse. It goes on and on. In Ferguson and around the nation.
As for this particular chapter, the ’04 convention, I think I’m ready to let go. The case was settled. The largest payout in the history of protest settlements. http://www.nyclu.org/news/victory-unlawful-mass-arrest-during-2004-rnc-largest-protest-settlement-history. I fought the law and I won.
If you saw my film and liked it, check out this short I did called THE BOX. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA1LkgyQ4Iw
It was the next big project after THE AFTER PARTY. It just won the Special Jury Prize at the New Orleans Film Festival. It’s also a social justice film. Thanks for watching. See you at the movies.