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Citizen Stan (2004)

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Cast overview:
Stanley K. Sheinbaum ...
Robert Scheer ...


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26 September 2004 (USA)  »

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Interesting Doc on a Behind-the-Scenes Political Player.
13 May 2013 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

"Citizen Stan" is a film about the life and work of an important behind-scenes-player (he doesn't even have his own Wikipedia) in the realm of American Politics- Stanley Scheinbaum.

An awful student, Scheinbaum dropped out of highschool and joined the military. After returning from war he finished his highschool diploma and was accepted into university through the GI Bill. He would eventually become one of the most respected economics professors at Stanford, before being asked by the US government to develop an economic plan for Vietnam, under the CIA, in a project stationed at Michigan State University. This would drastically influence his worldview, as he felt that he was conned into contributing to something he would come to morally oppose- the Vietnam War.

A journalist for Ramparts Magazine named Robert Scheer would uncover Scheinbaum's role in Vietnam with the CIA, and he was going to reveal it to the world in a tell-all article. Scheinbaum not only admitted his involvement but fully cooperated with Scheer. He also flipped and joined the activists in their anti-war movement. Here he took on the role of communicator, helping to educate the American people about the atrocities that were really taking place in Vietnam, despite the fact that it would put him directly at odds with his brother who was working for the State Department in Vietnam as an adviser to the Ambassador.

Stanley ran for politics in the early 60's- losing both times. Disenchanted and getting older, he decided to leave the anti-war movement behind him and move to New York with his wife. Here he became caught up in the Daniel Ellsberg treason case- Pentagon Papers leak and ensuing Watergate scandal. Ellsberg recounts how Stanley put on a fundraising event in support of his Defense Fund- just when it was about to tap out. It was a birthday party for Ellsberg- with a performance by Barbara Streisand- during which they managed to raise $50,000 dollars. Ellsberg states that without the money raised by Stanley at that event he doesn't think Nixon would have been impeached; and the war may have continued.

While remaining behind the scenes in the Ellsberg affair, Scheinbaum would gain international notoriety when he became involved in the case of his friend- fellow economist at Berkely, Andreas Papandreau- who had been arrested and charged with high treason, by the Greek military junta in 1967, during a coup to overthrow his father. Scheinbaum's plan was to use his contacts in the state department to keep Papandreau's name alive with hopes the state would lean on the Greek junta. He would eventually make contact with a couple Greek Secret Agents that were willing to testify about how Papandreau was being framed by the military junta. This saved Papandreau's life as the state was forced to exile him instead of putting him to death. Papandreau would go on to serve three terms as the Prime Minister of Greece- for which he was eternally grateful to his dear friend Stanley.

Next, the film focuses on the central role that Scheinbaum would play as a facilitator of negotiations between the State of Israel and the PLO in their attempt at a peace process. It discusses how he was able to make great leaps and bounds when facilitating discussions between Arafat and Rabin- prior to Rabin's assassination- and how this put him at odds with the Jewish community back in the US- a community he was deeply attached and dedicated to.

Stanley would continue to fight for peace- locally and internationally- well into his 70s. In 1991 he was named to the Police Commission in Los Angeles; right when racial tensions were beginning to erupt in response to the Rodney King beating incident. He would challenge the racist and violent reign of then Police Chief Daryl Gates- whose egomania blinded him of his own ignorance and polarizing effect on the community. When the people took to the streets to express their anger and disgust, Sheinbaum would be there with them to make sure the Police did not violently intervene. Jesse Jackson recounts how Stanley would be out walking the streets during the riots- unlike any other politician or police commissioner- while others tell of how he would hang out in South Central LA, so that he could get to know the community better. One of Stanley's colleagues from the ACLU tells of how the police had once kettled a group from the black community- holding a protest against Gates and the Police- to prevent other people from joining the demonstration. Sheinbaum and his wife were personally escorting people through the police line so that they could join their brothers and sisters in protest! He also helped fund community organizations that were focused on police brutality and gangland truces.

The film concludes by focusing on Stanley's skills- the ones that made him such an important player in both American and international politics. His greatest traits were his absolute dedication and utter resourcefulness. Whether it be rallying the rich and famous in fundraising campaigns, or using his connections to bring enemies together for peace negotiations, Sheinbaum was both an expert communicator and organizer. Despite being subject to alienation and numerous threats, Stanley Sheinbaum would continue his efforts to facilitate peace in the middle east well into his 80's. While by no means perfect, his story is definitely inspiring and worth reflecting upon. Sheinbaum turned 91 this year (in 2011).

"Citizen Stan" provides an interesting look at that the life of an intriguing and inspiring character from the realm of American Politics (where inspirational characters are few and far between). It's simply made, consisting of interviews with people that range from his brother Gill, to journalist Robert Sheer, Daniel Ellsberg, Jesse Jackson, and of course, Stanley himself. While not a masterpiece it is definitely worth a watch for it's informative value and inspirational message. 6.5 out of 10.

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