Jerrol LeBaron didn’t bother to interview any lawmakers for his new documentary “Fools on the Hill.”
The film calls out politicians for routinely passing legislation, sometimes at a feverish clip, they haven’t so much as read. LeBaron thought it was foolish to bother asking them why they behaved in such a fashion.
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“I judge an organization or a person by their actions and results, not by what they say,” LeBaron tells Big Hollywood. “The only reason to pass a law is to fix something, and they aren’t even looking at the problem … I could care less what they think.”
LeBaron serves as the Michael Moore-esque hero of “Hill,” an Everyman trying to drum up support for a bill that would require politicians to read new legislation before voting on it. We see LeBaron schlepping across North Dakota to convince people that his proposal will bring accountability to Congress. LeBaron’s mission would also allow for the public dissemination of future bills online so Americans can see what’s about to be considered.
It’s a truly nonpartisan affair. LeBaron doesn’t pick an ideological side in the film, and his roster of talking heads includes figures from the Left – Ed Begley, Jr. – as well as the Right – conservative talker Rick Amato.
In one of many political examples in the film, the documentary taunts efforts by the late Congressman John Murtha to funnel big money into a Pennsylvania airport which precious few people actually use.
LeBaron has been fuming over the issue in “Hill” for some time, dating back in part to the hurried approval of The Patriot Act during President George W. Bush’s first term.
“It’s becoming more and more common with bigger and bigger bills, faster and faster,” he says.
In making a truly bipartisan film LeBaron chose to leave out certain topics that might have made for a more tantalizing narrative. Conservatives would have appreciated a clip of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi famously saying, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
“Certain things trigger people … I don’t put the health care bill in there because it’s a trigger,” he says. We cut out a lot of sexy footage.”
The bulk of the film finds LeBaron traveling across North Dakota to drum up interest in his proposal. “Hill” is far from a comedy, but there’s something oddly funny about watching LeBaron visit one fast food joint after another while bunking in the most modest accommodations possible. His quest didn’t come with the kind of budget that would allow him to travel in style, but that only adds to the quietly humorous tone.
“One thing I admire about comedians is they make it funny and they still get their point across without depressing you,” he says. “I get depressed after watching a lot of documentaries.”
“Fools on the Hill” doesn’t have a distributor – yet – but LeBaron says roughly 5o companies have requested a screener of the film for consideration. That means it could be another year before the film is released to the public, or that it arrives just in time for the November elections.
LeBaron is confident potential voters will see the film before November, and in the meantime he’ll be pursuing film festival opportunities as well as private screenings.
“Fools on the Hill” doesn’t pick parties, there’s a good chance the Tea Party Nation will rally around its core message.
“Can you imagine if our Founding Fathers decided they were gonna do the Constitution … and they turned it around the very next day?” he asks. “It took them months, and the Constitution was only five or so pages long.”