Vermont Independent is partnering with the Green Mountain Film Festival to bring you a new documentary film, produced by JD Thomason, entitled “Beyond Empire: Visions Of People’s Republic.” Join us at the Savoy Theater on Sunday, March 25, 2018 @ 1:00 pm. Free Vermont!
I first learned about some of the interesting political things happening in Vermont in the mid-1990s but it wasn’t until Vermont passed single-payer healthcare that I realized just how dramatic the contrast between Vermont and the rest of the United States truly is. I decided I had to see this place for myself and, in 2014, I traveled to meet some of the people driving Vermont politics. While browsing the “local” section in a Burlington bookstore, I found a book called Most Likely to Secede – a collection of essays and articles collected from Vermont’s secessionist newspaper, Vermont Commons. After reading the book, I contacted the publisher and arranged to meet with the editors.
I traveled to Woodstock, Vermont to meet with Ron Miller and Rob Williams and we discussed the prospect of a documentary that would explore the rise of the new Vermont secessionist movement. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Bernie Sanders, the U.S. Senator from Vermont, announced he was running for President of the United States. That put the spotlight on Vermont and really showed just how important and relevant this small, rural New England farming state is.
Originally, I thought this was going to be a low-pressure, low-intensity documentary with some thought-provoking analysis from some obscure Vermont activists but I quickly realized that I was dealing with something much more profound. While the Vermont secessionist movement was talking about Vermont’s political future, it was really talking about America’s political future. So I changed gears and, instead of telling the story of how Vermont went from being an independent republic to joining the United States and becoming a policy pioneer in so many ways, I decided to tell the story of the American “Empire” as seen by some of the brightest thinkers in Vermont politics.
My goal was to remove myself as much as possible from the narrative and, instead, simply provide a forum for these voices to express themselves. I’ll admit, it was a difficult journey in some respects. With everything that was happening politically between 2015 and the wrap of shooting, it was hard to know what to leave in and what to leave out. The final product isn’t so much a history of the Vermont secessionist movement but a meditation on 21st century America as seen through Vermont eyes, hence the subtitle “Visions of a Peoples’ Republic.”