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Strange Culture
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Reviews & Ratings for
Strange Culture More at IMDbPro »

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Index 12 reviews in total 

21 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Important and timely work

10/10
Author: george-257 from United States
10 January 2007

This film is a must see if you care or about the arts in the current political climate, or for that matter if you care about civil liberties in general.

Strange Culture is very different from Lynn Hershman's other work--a unique documentary/narrative hybrid. An amazing and surreal performance by Thomas Jay Ryan. Though there is an amazing cast, the real star is Steve Kurtz, the Buffalo artist who is the subject of the film. Steve's heartbreaking retelling of his wife's death, and his subsequent arrest and legal wranglings is must see for anyone who believes are government is beyond reproach.

This film is powerful, heart wrenching, and an outrageous indictment of the current state of political affairs.

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16 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Post 9/11 terrorism by our government

7/10
Author: lastliberal from United States
14 December 2007

It was President Roosevelt that told us, "The only thing you have to fear is fear itself." The Bush administration has put the country into a constant state of fear since 9/11, and the result is that we have been complicit in the removal of the very freedoms that make us unique in the world.

Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." The Bush administration is counting on the fear and ignorance of the American people to continue to allow them to build their tyranny in the guise of safety.

This is the story of how the government uses their tyranny to come down on those with whom they disagree. As stated so eloquently in the film, they no longer use the civil process, they have turned civil litigation into criminal litigation. They have also passed laws allowing them to lock up any of us at will.

This is a story of how an artist, Steve Kurtz, is persecuted by the government for daring to oppose the multi-national corporations that finance these sleazy politicians; but it is really the story of what could happen to every single one of us if we continue to sit in front of the TV and watch trash and let the government do what they will.

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A Film/Video That Address Two Vital Issues

10/10
Author: Seamus2829 from United States
7 October 2007

At long last. A short,but compelling documentary that blows the lid off of two issues that have been making news of one kind or another: genetically modified foods (or GMO's),and the shoddy treatment of creative artists, in the guise of Homeland Security's usual draconian tactics. One element concerns an artist that was getting an art piece ready for an exhibition, that brought to light the concern of GMO's in our food. The artists wife suffers a heart attack & dies. When the artist phones the police for assistance,they arrive,finding the materials for the exhibit,along with some Arabic writing, and assume that the artist is some kind of a bio terrorist,and promptly arrests him. What follows is will break your heart & anger you. The screening I attended had a member of the ACLU present to answer questions that related to the incident (the court case is still pending).

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

a timely and important film about freedom of expression.

10/10
Author: lion-23 from chicago, illinois
2 January 2007

i was blown away by this movie. It is nothing you would expect. It creeps up on you. It is a truly important film, and extremely timely. The footage is remarkable and varied. It is as if the film turns itself inside out so that you are right there, inside the movie, sitting right next to the actors, who are sharing intimate moments of themselves, candidly and without guile. The identity device is brilliant, and took me by surprise, even though there were clues along the way. The way the various elements were handled, from the comic strips to re enactments to interviews were skillful and well crafted. This is one of the the films that can make a difference because it brings an awareness of the repercussions of policies to a human level. I highly recommend this film.

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19 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Declaration of Conscience

Author: KELLY
26 December 2006

This is an important movie to watch, especially for young adults and/or patriotic Americans who may not have heard about a tragic period in US history referred to as McCarthyism: a period when the government led an aggressive campaign against its own citizens looking for communist sympathizers- there was even a "House of Un-American Activities Committee" formed. Thousands were threatened, blacklisted, and arrested - mainly teachers, artists, folks in the entertainment business and government employees - guilty of nothing other than free thought.

Since 9/11, we and our government are acting hysterically. The events as captured in this film are evidence.

"Some of the basic principles of Americanism: The right to criticize; The right to hold unpopular beliefs; The right to protest; The right of independent thought." from Statement of Senator Margaret Chase Smith, June 1, 1950

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The story must be heard, but the telling is flawed

6/10
Author: siderite from Romania
27 September 2009

It all starts with a real event, the arrest and then continuous harassment of Steve Kurtz from 2004 until 2008 for the sole reason that he used biological material as a kind of art form. The story, truly incredible, yet totally real, needs to be heard. It shows how, under the right motivation, the FBI can do almost anything to someone for no reason at all.

The film, however, is made almost like a conspiracy theory flick, one of those artsy, liberal, intellectual in your face things that don't gather the normal crowd of people because they are simply weird for a common person. You see a long haired university professor that works with bacteria as an art form in order to promote awareness of genetically modification in the foods marketed in the US. He is ridiculous! However, what happens to him (and his friends) is completely real.

Now, I think this story could have been told a lot better and it should have been because it is one of those tales that show how close a proud democracy can turn overnight into a dictatorship or a police state. There is one line in the film where Steve Kurtz says that if the legal precedent would have succeeded, the power of the Department of Justice would have doubled overnight, by simply allowing them to turn any civil misdemeanor into a criminal issue.

Bottom line: whether you will watch this film or not, Steve Kurtz is a man you should at least read about, get your facts straight, see how it could all have gone wrong for all of us if he (and perhaps a lot of people in his situation) would have caved in to the pressure.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The Amazing Application of the Docudrama Genre in, Strange Culture (2007)

10/10
Author: James Horak from United States
24 January 2011

The Amazing Application of the Docudrama Genre in, Strange Culture (2007) (or, government exploitation of event to circumvent expectation of human rights in the fulfillment of social contract.)

The making of, Strange Culture, establishes a genre form within a genre, so elegantly does it apply both a storyline and it's backing with factual event but incorporates the "director's cut" inside to the making at the same time. Although a feat not for the faint of heart, the production carries its flow in a highly clarifying manner and with the very warmth of both actors and those they portray, seemingly caught up in a labor of love. Even more astounding when the viewer begins to realize the concerns at hand are wrought upon the innocent by a monstrosity that has come to be made in and by the aftermath of America's single greatest outrage, 9/11, exploited to mindlessly move this society closer to a police state.

The government's case against one man becomes solely a pursuit against both the academic world, the world of art and the rights of all to know from whence and by what manner their very food source comes; even the pseudo science employed in tampering with it genetically. A wake-up call we all need that touches upon every right we increasingly only presume to have.

That a group of learned professionals, utilizing their own artistic talents, scholarly knowledge base and friendship as colleagues could put together such a talented art exhibition so incredibly poignant to the social and health concerns of their audience would obviously draw the concerns of the powers that be, the kind of elite that own Monsanto.

In the end we do not know the designs of this most dubious actionable effort of government against its people was early-on instrumented. We do not know this, but we come to suspect it.

The laudable performance of the talented and hauntingly beautiful Tilda Swinton, the superb choice of casting Thomas Jay Ryan in the lead role, and the participation and obvious concern of Peter Coyote are wonderful extra attractions. Writer/director, Lynn Hershman-Leeson, has done far more than a successful job. To attest to this is the placement of a scene in which a group of grad students in a class are asked, "does anyone know about the McCarthy Era?" When no one replies, we immediately know the utter importance of this film.

JCH

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Another must-see exposé about corporate greed

8/10
Author: Nooshin Navidi from United States
11 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I recommend this documentary because of its chilling story & message and not necessarily for its production value (though it was still engaging.) In the tradition of other films in the genre like Erin Brokovich, Silkwood, Norma Rae, etc., this is another disturbing account of innocent lives destroyed by corporate greed & corrupt motives. Only in this case, art, education and the First Amendment are on trial along with the victim. Respected science teacher & artist, Steve Kurtz, wakes up one morning to find his wife, (dramatization played by the great Tilda Swinton) dead next to him in bed, with the cause of death quickly determined to be heart failure. The paramedics who arrive on the scene notice the art-show-related chemicals & science-lab paraphernalia and alert the FBI which leads to Kurtz being arrested for "bio-terrorism". It's a surreal nightmare for Kurtz who never even gets a chance to properly grieve the sudden loss of his wife.

But things don't end once the "terrorist" charge is cleared due to insufficient evidence. Since his art show was conceived as an exposé to educate/inform the public about genetically-modified food, the powers that be (industry/companies) must make it go away.

Helped by an ambitious prosecutor in search of career advancement & fame, the charge is swiftly changed to something that would stick: Mail fraud. Absurd? Not when powerful industry is involved & would stop at nothing to protect their interests.

Tilda Swinton is wonderful here in the few dramatization scenes she's in. This is a film that will be missed by many, but should be seen by all.

~NN

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6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

The Conspiracy

Author: tedg (tedg@filmsfolded.com) from Virginia Beach
4 July 2008

I came to this because its folded. It is consists of some unsophisticated notions about "them" corrupting food, some art about it, deliberately folded into the artifacts, a documentary about the making of that art, a profile of the artist, outside the documentary, a story of how "they" interpret the art as a murder plot and a documentary of that story.

And it has Tilda Swinton whose presence usually signals something profound.

But the film is too clumsy to do its work. You can roughly get the facts.

Its another case of an event that becomes caught up in forces no one controls... that finds its way into film by way of combat with similar forces. Those forces come from story threads, conventions, urges that this filmmaker is as helpless to control as the protagonist.

There's one interesting idea here. The character played by Tilda is the artist's wife, Hope. She is the genius of an art collaborative, who is not an artist herself in the sense of creating. She is the "explainer," who makes the collaborative work by providing the story hooks into what these guys do.

The story is triggered by her death. The authorities arrive and without her storyweaving ability, put together their own conspiracy about a conspiracy. This film could have used her.

This film could have been "The Lives of Others," with the Bush FBI in place of the Stasi.

Still, even if the film fails it is far, far more powerful a message than Moore could put together.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.

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Chilling story w/ so-so production value, but a must-see nevertheless

7/10
Author: Nooshin Navidi from United States
6 June 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I gave this documentary high marks only because of its chilling story and message and not necessarily for its production value (though it was still engaging.) In the tradition of other films in the genre like Erin Brokovich, Silkwood, Norma Rae, etc., this is another disturbing account of innocent lives destroyed by corporate greed and corrupt motives. Only in this case, art, education and the First Amendment are on trial along with the victim. Respected science teacher and artist, Steve Kurtz, wakes up one morning to find his wife, (dramatization played by the great Tilda Swinton) dead next to him in bed, with the cause of death quickly determined to be heart failure. The paramedics who arrive on the scene notice the art-show-related chemicals and science-lab paraphernalia and alert the FBI which leads to Kurtz being arrested for "bio-terrorism". It's a surreal nightmare for Kurtz who never even gets a chance to properly grieve the sudden loss of his wife. But things don't end once the "terrorist" charge is cleared due to insufficient evidence. Since his art show was conceived as an exposé to educate/inform the public about genetically-modified food, the powers that be (industry/companies) must make it go away. Helped by an ambitious prosecutor in search of career advancement and fame, the charge is swiftly changed to something that would stick: Mail fraud. Absurd? Not when powerful industry is involved and would stop at nothing to protect their interests.

Tilda Swinton is wonderful here in the few dramatization scenes she's in. This is a film that was missed by many, but should be seen by all.

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