GENE McCARTHY: IN THE LAND OF THE AARDVARKS
A feature-length documentary
PRODUCED BY MARY BETH YARROW • DIRECTED BY BILL KERSEY
coming in 2018
VIEW THE DEVELOPMENT REEL (11 Minutes)
Gene McCarthy: In The Land of the Aardvarks is a feature-length documentary film about Minnesota Senator Eugene J. McCarthy, a poet and politician who in 1968 changed the landscape of American politics.
In this, the 50th anniversary of the most tempestuous year in our country's recent history, the man who stood at the epicenter of that year's upheaval remains an enigmatic figure. Senator McCarthy's 1968 Presidential campaign was an audacious challenge to the incumbent president of his own party over the issue of the American war in Vietnam, providing a voice to grassroots movements and inspiring a new generation of citizens – especially college students – to political action and civic engagement. Yet the hope stirred by his campaign's early electrifying success was soon beset by conflict, despair and violence, as 1968 would suffer the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy, the Chicago Police Riots of the Democratic Convention, and the election of Richard Nixon as President with the escalation of the war for another six years.
But Gene McCarthy was more than a player in that pivotal year of American history, and his story extends far beyond 1968. His intellect and philosophy of social justice were grounded in his small town roots on the Minnesota prairie, and refined by Benedictine traditions in the rural collegiate atmosphere of Saint John’s University. Over decades of public service – both within the establishment and as an exiled critic – he produced a wealth of political literature, delivering his provocative ideas with signature wit and style, and he accumulated a remarkable body of work as an accomplished poet. Yet even many of today's politically-active citizens remain unaware of the significance of Gene McCarthy and his embodiment of values that are glaringly absent from contemporary political discourse, more often than not mistaking him for the notorious symbol of the 1950s anticommunist witch hunts, Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy.
Today, against an ever-rising tide of public cynicism and frustration with American politics, Gene McCarthy's legacy of commitment to participatory democracy and Constitutional principles is carried on by a new generation of students fostered by The Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement at Saint John’s University. His lifelong pursuit of a politics of reason and hope was as imperfectly realized as any human endeavor, sometimes due to the very attributes that shaped his idealism. As one supporter remarks, “He may have disappointed us, but he never betrayed us.” With a nuanced perspective and a complex poetic tone, this film is a story told “in the key of Gene” and set against the backdrop of the Midwestern landscapes that produced this remarkable American.