PHOENIXVILLE >> Community Cinema, presented by the Independent Television Service (ITVS), Independent Lens, and WHYY, is offering an advance screening of “American Denial,” a film by Llewellyn Smith, Christine Herbes-Sommers and Kelly Thomson.
“American Denial” sheds a unique light on the unconscious political and moral world of modern Americans. By highlighting the social research unearthed by a Swede’s research in the 1940s, the film weaves a narrative (using research footage, newsreels, home movies, and modern short films) exposing some of the potential underlying causes continuing to affect implicit racial biases inherent in America’s institutions today. Timely given recent events that have sparked a national dialogue on race dynamics, the provocative film’s exploration of “stop and frisk” practices, the incarceration crisis, and racially-patterned poverty challenges our assumptions about who we are and what we really believe.
In 1938, the Carnegie Corporation commissioned Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal to begin a landmark study of race and inequality in the United States. His question: How could a people who cherish freedom and fairness also create such a racially oppressive society? Published in 1944, “An American Dilemma” was cited in the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate America’s schools. 70 years later, with many of us looking for answers as to why race is still such a dividing wedge in society, Myrdal’s question continues to challenge America — how do we explain the disconnect between what we believe and what we practice in what some have called a “post-racial” America? American Denial juxtaposes past and present, shifting from Myrdal’s investigation — and his own personal struggle with denial — and current stories of racial injustice that are often overlooked in our national insistence on the preeminence of the ideals of liberty, justice, and equality. Directed by Llewellyn Smith and produced by Christine Herbes-Sommers, Smith, and Kelly Thomson, American Denial premieres on Independent Lens on Monday, Feb. 23 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).