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POWERS THAT BE

by Keith Barber

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. — President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address to the Nation, Jan. 17, 1961.

Barbara-Anne Steegmuller, a sociology professor at Greensboro College and Strayer University, had long been fascinated with the aforementioned speech delivered President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Her interest lied more in the creative realm of screenwriting however than the world of documentary filmmaking. Steegmuller had written a political action thriller that included cameos by Noam Chomsky and William Blum. Steegmuller admitted she thought it was a long shot to get Chomsky, widely known as the father of modern linguistics, and Blum, an author and critic of American foreign policy, to agree to be in her feature film. When both of her idols agreed to take part in her project, one thing led to another and a “lucky accident” called Superpower was born. On Friday, Superpower, a full-length documentary about the global impact of America’s militaryindustrial complex, will be screened at the Gardens, located at 586 Piney Grove Road in Kernersville, at 2:55 p.m. during the Twin Cities Film Festival. Steegmuller said Superpower presents motives for the US foreign policy decisions since World War II, from military actions for regime change, to current legislation that is eroding American civil liberties. But it was Eisenhower who provided the original inspiration for the film. “He wanted to warn people about a runaway military and the militaryindustrial complex,” Steegmuller said. Video clips of Eisenhower’s farewell address begin and end the film as Steegmuller documents how US military spending has escalated over the years. Born in Charlotte and a graduate of Guilford College, Steegmuller began shooting the film in December 2006. After two years of filming, Steegmuller said she had 52 hours of footage and not the faintest idea of what to do next. “I knew nothing about editing, but I’ve learned a lot because I sat with [editor Mike Diiorio] and watched every single frame of film,” she said. “Now, I’ll know what not to do next time.” Since its release, Superpower has garnered a number of accolades. During the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah last month, Superpower won best feature documentary in the Moving Pictures Film Contest. In addition, Steegmuller won a directing award for Superpower at the August Sun Film & TV Film Festival in Los Angeles, where the film was also nominated for Best Feature Documentary and The Grand Peace Award. Superpower alsoreceived honorable mention in the Route 66 Film Festival. The film isan official selection of the International Film Festival in Cairo, Egypt and the British Film Festival in Los Angeles. Steegmuller said she learned many valuable lessons about the nature of documentary filmmaking during her adventure. “Ihad knowledge of screenwriting, but this is the exact opposite,” shesaid. “You write the script after you shoot.” Steegmuller said she alsorealized that fundraising is perhaps the most difficult task adocumentary filmmaker faces, but ultimately, she discovered there is ademand for well-written, thoughtful films.

“I think independent filmmaking is really making headway,” Steegmuller said. “There’s a real place for independent filmmakers.” Steegmuller said the film definitely has a local flavor. Professors from Wake Forest University, Guilford College, UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State were interviewed on camera for the film. Superpower alsofeatures Rep. Howard Coble, former NC Supreme Court Justice Henry E.Frye, Jennifer Rudinger, president of the NC American Civil LibertiesUnion and High Point physician Dr. Dave Wiggins. “We had a good mix of people,” she said. For further information on Superpower, go to: www.superpowerthemovie.com/home.html. Steegmuller said her overwhelmingly positive experience producing Superpower hasinspired her to start planning her next documentary film. Steegmullersaid she’s amazed by the power of the medium to move and inspireaudiences. She hopes her film will have an impact on the way Americansview their military history, and guard against the rise of themilitary-industrial complex. “It’s a call to action, that you can stay informed and make a difference,” she said.

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