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Strange Culture

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In this moving and wildly innovative film, director Lynn Hershman Leeson tells the terrifying story of how one man's personal tragedy turns into persecution by a paranoid and overzealous government.

Art professor Steve Kurtz's nightmare began on May 11, 2004, when he awoke to find his wife Hope dead of a heart attack. Paramedics responding to his 911 call, suspicious of petri dishes and scientific paraphenalia in his house (materials for an art project on genetically modified food) contacted the FBI, and soon his world was turned upside down. Only hours after his wife s tragic death he was suddenly a murder suspect, an accused bioterrorist, and a pariah to all but his closest friends.

Told through a unique blend of interviews, documentary footage, and reconstructed scenes starring Tilda Swinton, Thomas Jay Ryan, and Peter Coyote, Hershman s critically-acclaimed film is a sophisticated, look at how the traumatic events of 9/11 altered American society and undermined its long-held values.
Extras on the DVD include: Theatrical Trailer, Filmmaker Interviews, Outtakes and Filmmaker Biography.

Amazon.com

Though Lynn Hershman Leeson’s third feature tackles weighty issues like national security and privacy rights, love plays an equal part in the picture. Three years after 9/11, Buffalo-based artist Hope Kurtz (played by Oscar winner Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton), dies from a heart attack. Her husband of 27 years, Steve (Henry Fool's Thomas Jay Ryan), yearns to mourn, but authorities notice bacteria-filled Petri dishes around their house and take him in for questioning (the Kurtz's subject was genetically modified food). Next, the FBI confiscates his computers, his cat--even his wife's body--before charging him and colleague Robert Ferrell (Peter Coyote) with bioterrorist intentions, culminating in indictments for mail and wire fraud. As in Hershman Leeson's previous projects with Swinton, Conceiving Ada and Teknolust, science and art co-mingle. This time, though, she merges interviews, dramatic recreations, and Kurtz himself, which initially proves distracting--he looks nothing like Ryan--but his first-person testimony adds weight to the actor's believable performance. Though the director grapples with big ideas, she never loses sight of the people behind them. Her intentionally one-sided portrait of an insular art world flirts with pretension, but for those truly concerned about the issues at hand--and the humans affected by them--Strange Culture will surely break a few hearts. At the time of filming, Kurtz's case remained unresolved, but the opening title conveys both optimism and respect: "This film is dedicated to Hope." Extras include an interview with the subject and a comprehensive profile of the filmmaker. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features

  • Theatrical trailer
  • Filmmaker interviews
  • Outtakes
  • Filmmaker biography

Product Details

  • Actors: Peter Coyote, Tilda Swinton, Thomas Jay Ryan, Josh Kornbluth, Steve Kurtz
  • Directors: Lynn Hershman Leeson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: March 25, 2008
  • Run Time: 75 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ZDQI9Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,798 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Strange Culture" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Downing on February 27, 2008
Format: DVD
Strange Culture
I've seen this docudrama twice now. It offers a penetrating yet quite understated commentary on the emergence of what author Bertram Gross once described as "friendly fascism" - not the jackboots, uniforms and screeching rhetoric, but our 'friendly protection' from terrorism, and at the same time our 'protection' from lingering anxieties concerning genetically modified foods. You wouldn't think all this would come together in a single FBI case, currently pending. But it has. In Buffalo, New York.

One of the poignant features of this film is the determinedly honest picture it paints of the warm but intermittently irritable relation between Steve Kurtz, the central surviving character in this tragedy, and his wife of many years (played by Tilda Swinton), the day before she suddenly died. So is the portrayal of the acute fears of a student of 'Middle Eastern' origin, as he decides whether or not to sign a petition of support for Kurtz, one of his most respected university instructors.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls... This film needs knowing.
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Format: DVD
This documentary does a great job conveying a truly bizarre and outrageous (and still ongoing) situation that shows how easily people can be persecuted in the hysteria and stubbornness surrounding the war on terror. It does an equally good job of telling the story of the personal tragedy of these inspiring artists and activists; and showcasing the creative, hard-hitting work of the CAE. The story and its chilling political implications have really stuck with me; I've recommended it to many people.
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Format: DVD
I watched this film on IFC, and immediately ordered a copy. I plan on showing this movie in all ART classes and CRIMINAL JUSTICE classes at my university. This documentary tears the roof off our 'friendly loving' government and shows the reality of the situation. We're all 100% guilty until proven innocent. Even then, being proven innocent means nothing, just that they'll try to get you on a different more BS charge!

Buy it! Watch it! Join the mailing list- This is happening right now, and YOU can make a difference! Take a look at CAE_Defense (at) yahoogroups.com for the fastest and most current updates.
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Format: DVD
This film was excellent. It raises some very complex issues that are so pressing to contemporary society. In many ways this movie is extremely unnerving. Words such as democracy and freedom are tossed around so easily these days...often in the name of distorted political posturing. However, those words also carry with them very high ideals. After watching this film, how might you think about your rights and freedoms today? Don't take my word for it. See it for yourself and you decide what is most compelling about this film.
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Format: DVD
At a time when the country stands at a crossroads, the more information
we have, the better. When I watched this movie, I took notes with the hopes
of doing a piece about it as a freelance writer. Editors thought the story had been sufficiently told. Ironically, I pitched it the week that CIA tapes mysteriously disappeared. One of the quotes from the movie is
"Freedom is knowledge." If we don't educate ourselves about
what is happening in our country, we are doomed. Luckily, we have courageous documentary film makers that are willing to put themselves on the line to
make sure that the rest of us know what is going on.
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