Thin Line's plan is simple: Take all of the photography, music and film that make our city, state and country vibrant, and put it all one place for five days in April. Oh, and did I mention it’s free? Okay, maybe it’s not so simple after all.
However, by the grace of the art gods, the geniuses (read: insane people) behind Thin Line Fest have somehow pulled it off, and the tenth annual film, music and photo festival starts tomorrow with the world premiere of Waking the Sleeping Giant, a doc about the fight against inequality during the 2016 presidential election.
After the giant awakens, audiences will get to watch movies about Bonnie and Clyde and Bill Nye, the Science Guy in between sets by rising country stars and Japanese punk—and that’s to say nothing of undoubtedly stellar photo exhibit curated by veteran photographer Ed Steele. In short, the insanity of Thin Line cannot be discussed “in short,” so you’ll have to experience it yourself.
We can, however, provide a little preview of the fest’s opening film—a searing and incisive flick that tries (and succeeds) to tell the story of modern progressivism through the perspectives of five Americans. Since this new progressive movement is still in the works and a bigger deal than we may realize, Waking the Sleeping Giant is a must-see for passionate politicos and passive people alike. Furthermore, by showing how great things happen when the forces of good unite, director-producer Jacob Smith’s doc is the perfect film to start this intensely interactive and multifaceted festival.
Waking the Sleeping Giant begins with a familiar voice talking about the struggle that is necessary to bring about real change. Senator Bernie Sanders opens the doc by quoting Frederick Douglass and setting the tone for Smith’s multilayered look at the various struggles that were central to American life in the run-up to last year’s presidential election.
Smith began the project before Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders ever declared their intention to run for president. Back in 2014, he was working for Senator Sanders as the Democratic Party was in the throes of a fateful reconstitution. Racial tensions, economic instability and a backlash against money in politics were all melding together to form what would soon become the backbone for Sanders’ “revolution,” and Smith knew he had to start rolling on this film before he even knew what it was about.
"The big-picture answer was we never knew where the story was going," Smith told the Denton Record-Chronicle. "The story started taking twists and turns, but the biggest thing we saw was this racial justice movement making its way into the presidential election.”
In addition to Sanders, Smith and co-director/co-producer Jon Erickson follow an impoverished West Virginian family, a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement and two activists who work with Democracy Spring. The filmmakers manage all of these separate but connected storylines with perfect poise and the necessary balance, and this layered approach allows the Giant team to tell the human stories of this moment that the news often never told. That’s another reason this flick is perfect for Thin Line.
Back in January, festival director Josh Butler discussed how the fest’s programming is intentionally chosen to ask the hard questions that we so often forget among the mess and muddle.
“I want people to question what is real,” Butler said. “With these media messages that we are bombarded with everyday, I want there to be more critical thinking, more questioning of what’s behind this source.”
Waking the Sleeping Giant does give us some answers, but it poses even more questions—an accomplishment of which Smith will be especially proud. However, that means this story is far from finished. Just as the filmmakers had no idea where it was headed in 2014, it’s safe to say there are still plenty of twists and turns left in the years to come.
That means Smith will need a follow-up, and I know just the place to screen it.
Waking the Sleeping Giant: The Making of a Political Revolution opens Thin Line Fest with its world premier screening at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Campus Theatre, 214 W. Hickory St.
Register to attend this year's Thin Line Fest here.