Gene Siskel Film Center | What’s the Matter with Kansas?

September 22, 2009 · Print This Article

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What’s the Matter with Kansas? directed by Joe Winston is based on Thomas Frank’s best selling novel which shares the same name. This film does, however, differ in it’s setting from the book. It acts a bit more like a squeal than as an adaptation. The film begins with the 2006 attorney general elections instead of the books 2004 presidential elections. Throughout the documentary we uncover the surprising liberal history of the state of Kansas.

Lacking a narrator, the film presents itself as a collection of portraits from various members of the Kansas community, both liberal and conservative. Within the first 20 minutes of the film we meet Angel Dillard and Brittany Barden who are both Republican activists, farmer Donn Teske, and my personal favorite, artist M.T. Liggett. Most of the beginning of the film touches on some of the hot topics, such as abortion and gay marriage that have swayed voters over to the Republican Party. It really is unfair to compare this film’s documentation of people’s thoughts on abortion with Tony Kaye’s stunning film Lake of Fire but I am going to have to draw a line to that film. If you haven’t seen it go out and get it. It really is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in the past five years. FYI it’s not for the faint of heart. At times I found the film a little long even with it being only an hour and a half. Aesthetically it felt actually rather well composed. There were plenty of meandering shots that gave you an idea of some of the economic hardships that the citizens on Kansas were facing. I also enjoyed the voyeuristic look onto the other political spectrum while still staying in my liberal bubble. Truth be told, I might have been more invested if I had read the book or had been from Kansas.

Gene Siskel Film Center
164 North State Street
Chicago Il 60601

Tuesday, September 22nd, 6:15pm and 8:15 pm
Wednesday, September 23rd, 6:15pm and 8:15 pm
Thursday, September 24th, 6:15pm and 8:15 pm