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July 31, 2013

Film Fest panelists: Americans' rights under attack

TRAVERSE CITY — Small increments.

That's how the rights of American citizens are being eroded, contend filmmakers who took to the stage Wednesday during the first panel discussion of this year's Traverse City Film Festival.

"Its a slow creep, bit-by-bit, they take away rights so that people don't really notice," said panel moderator and Film Festival founder Michael Moore.

"Big Brother on Film: Censorship, Government Spying and How the Koch Brothers Can Kill Your Film" included Academy Award-nominated producers and directors Carl Dean and Tia Lessin, Cullen Hoback and New Zealand filmmaker Slavko Martinov.

Hoback's film, "Terms and Conditions May Apply" examines the terms to which consumers are agreeing, and how much privacy is at stake when using online services.

"Anything we do in our digital lives becomes public with a legally binding contract," he said.

The irony, Moore said, is that while individuals have less privacy, corporations increasingly are concealing their information.

"None of this has happened in private, in fine print; it has all been right in front of our eyes. It is to benefit the super-enfranchised, the wealthiest Americans and disenfranchise people of average means and working class people," said Dean, filmmaker of "Trouble the Water" and "Citizen Koch."

Dean's and Lessin's latest film investigates how the immensely wealthy can influence the American political system, as witnessed by how the landmark U.S. Supreme Court's Citizen's United ruling changed how elections can be funded, they said.

"Citizen Koch" focuses on billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch and their impact on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's standoff with state employees. The film lost funding from PBS when affiliate WNET feared the documentary would upset major contributor David Koch.

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