Filmmaker Yael Bridge’s new documentary The Big Scary “S” Word exploring the rich history of the American socialist movement, will have its World Premiere at Mill Valley, followed by screening at AFI FEST. The film was also an official selection of 2020 ;Hot DOCS Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.
The film’s synopsis: A former Marine and a public school teacher in two different states find themselves broke and unable to sustain their livelihoods through their jobs. Swept along with the energy of the 2016 Sanders presidency and the murmurs of a state-wide teacher strike, both turn to socialism, a once-fringe ideology, to tackle problems larger than themselves.
The Big Scary “S” Word explores the rich history of the American socialist movement and journeys with the people striving to build a socialist future today. With inequality growing, a climate catastrophe looming, and right-wing extremism ascending around the world, many Americans are wondering whether capitalism is to blame. But what is the alternative? Socialism is plagued by conflicting definitions. Is it dictatorship or democracy? Norway or Venezuela? Reform or revolution?
This film explores where American socialism has been, why and how it was suppressed, and imagines what a renewed American socialism might look like, directly from today’s leading left thinkers and socialists.
Director Yael Bridge in her statement noted, “I made this film because of my deep curiosity about the rich paradox of American socialism. My previous film, Saving Capitalism, followed Robert Reich as he travelled the U.S. in 2015 talking to people disillusioned with the political status quo. I also worked closely with Reich to produce short videos for social media, explaining progressive policy proposals in an accessible way. At the same time, during the 2016 election cycle, I was surprised by how Bernie Sanders appealed to people who would otherwise vote for Donald Trump, and the vast common ground between two ostensibly opposed political stances rocked me. I realized there is an urgent need for an honest, accessible exploration of today’s socialist ideas as they are being mobilized in America, as well as their historical precedents.”
“I have spent years of thinking critically about American political movements, I wanted to creatively investigate contemporary visions of change. The Big Scary “S” Word is rooted in character-driven cinema verité, with intimate access to the private moments of our two subjects as they struggle to get by. We gathered interviews with labor historians, sociologists, economists, podcasters, activists, journalists, filmmakers, and community organizers. They present alternative approaches to tackling the major problems plaguing us today, such as climate change, housing, healthcare, and education.”
“In recent years, millions of Americans have voted for socialist politicians, and polls consistently show a majority of millennials prefer socialism over capitalism. But socialism is plagued by conflicting definitions and interpretations, most problematically the idea that it runs counterpoint to American national identity. The label has been deployed strategically at different points in history, embraced by the USSR to justify a dictatorship and vilified by the US to champion free-market capitalism. THE BIG SCARY “S” WORD grapples with these contradictions and provides a counterbalancing voice to the mainstream media’s antipathy toward the “un-American” ideology by engaging with Americans who are defining the term anew.” – Yael Bridge, Director
Yael Bridge (Director/Producer) is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker based in Oakland. Most recently produced Saving Capitalism with Robert Reich, nominated for an Emmy Award in Business and Economics. Previously she produced Left on Purpose, winner of the Audience Award at DOC NYC. As Director of Productions at Inequality Media, Yael has made numerous viral videos tackling complex political issues that have garnered over 200 million views on social media.