Anti-Trump artists’ group rides again in short films

On Wednesday night, Nov. 8, 2017, the exact one-year anniversary of Trump’s Electoral College theft of the presidency, Artists Rise Up Los Angeles (ARULA) held its third event. ARULA was co-created by director Sue Hamilton the day after Trump’s ascension to the throne in order to rally artists to fight the candidate who lost the popular vote by 3 million-plus ballots and his regime.

Previously, ARULA staged two (mostly) live theatrical events targeting Trump with skits, comedy, songs, etc., featuring comics such as “Liberal Redneck” Trae Crowder; “Naughty Muslim” Pakistani-American comedienne Mona Shaikh; parody song performer/composer Cliff Tasner and others. Funds raised through the shows are then donated to lefty groups, such as ACLU, CAIR, NARAL, NRDC, HRC & SPLC—Google them if you don’t know these initials, too long to spell out here. (For my story about these shows see here.)

Scene from “Piece of Legislation.” | Healthy California.

Now ARULA has moved to the film front, with a Short Film Festival at L.A. Downtown Independent, an outpost of indie cinema. Ten politically minded shorts, ranging from 3 to 22 minutes in length, focused on: universal healthcare in Tasner’s animated Piece of Legislation; torture and imprisonment in Jenn Liu’s Electric Room (previously performed live onstage during a prior ARULA show); Larry LaFond and Terry Ray’s wry Cost of Living depicts a dystopian future where three total strangers win a government lottery allowing them to share a one-room apartment with water rationed due to global warming (available on YouTube); lesbianism and Trump’s Secret Service detail are wittily lampooned in Noel Orput and Michael Lopez’s The Secret Office—Conversion Therapy; and marijuana legalization is cooked up in A State of Cannabis, directed by Greg Gardner.

Refugees, undocumented immigrants, and domestic abuse are the subject of 2500KM, written/directed by Daniela Arguello (available on HBO and here). American Girl, written/directed by Rebecca Murga, also deals with immigration issues as a woman crosses the border, joins the U.S. military, and is maimed overseas in combat. The film laments the poor treatment of non-U.S. citizens who are discriminated against by the U.S. military, even after they are wounded.

Composer/filmmaker Judith Lynn Stillman’s I Cherish Women was among the most powerful shorts. In it, a soprano/alto/tenor/bass chorus performed Stillman’s classical composition, with lyrics by that world renowned librettist—wait for it—Donald J. Trump. Although there are some men in the chorus, every one of the solo parts is sung by multi-culti women, who all sing actual words re: women uttered by the grabber-in-chief. During a post-screening Q&A moderated by L.A. talk radio host Sheena Metal, Stillman cleverly explained she found the “antidote to fake news—we use Trump’s own words.”

All of the funds raised by ARULA’s filmfest were earmarked to benefit Planned Parenthood. An L.A. PP spokeswoman, Amalia Shifriss, spoke before the shorts rolled, saying that in Los Angeles, “250,000 women are served by Planned Parenthood…[including] at two L.A. high schools…. We need to build support so that when attacks come we have our defenses.”

The short R.V. envisioned a time in the near future when reproductive rights are outlawed and a back alley abortion is carried out in an R.V. in the middle of nowhere under crude conditions, in devastating detail. Unlocked also creatively uses the cinematic device of reverse motion to show how unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STIs are avoided by going back in time and showing the victimized women being counseled by Planned Parenthood instead, resulting in alternative, happier endings.

L.A. has a long tradition of mobilizing artists for causes, such as the 1930s-era Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, and Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions in the 1940s. ARULA is in that cutting-edge tradition of using art to fight the good fight, by raising conscience, consciousness, and funds.

ARULA, which has had branches in New York and Chicago, is the latest incarnation of tapping talents to rally against the powers that be—in this case the Trump junta. For as long as that abomination lasts, one can expect ARULA to periodically rage against the regime.

For more info see the ARULA website here.

L.A.-based critic and film historian Ed Rampell wrote, co-produced, and co-presented the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Hollywood Blacklist, which is airing on C-SPAN 3 American History TV at these times: Nov. 22 at 8:00 pm EST; Nov. 23 at 12:15 am and 8:15 am EST. After the program airs, this historic remembrance of the Hollywood Blacklist can be seen on C-SPAN’s website.


Ed Rampell
Ed Rampell

Ed Rampell is an L.A.-based film historian/critic and co-organizer of the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Hollywood Blacklist.