A bipartisan House committee is set to premiere a first-of-its-kind documentary to present its findings on the realities of economic inequality in the United States and the unique journeys of people seeking to attain financial security.
The House Economic Disparity and Fairness Committee is preparing to release a 30-minute documentary that seeks to showcase the realities of economic disparity from the eyes of those dealing with the concern firsthand, rather than from the outside perspective of Washington lawmakers.
“I really wanted to put a huge emphasis on not just producing a sterile report, but on getting American stories out there in a very big way, in the service of understanding and moving away from stereotypical thinking and in the service of reducing polarization,” committee Chairman Rep. Jim Himes told the Washington Post.
The question of economic inequality and stability has long been a politically charged one within the halls of Congress, with Republicans and Democrats often disagreeing on the causes and results of certain disparities. However, the bipartisan committee sought to bridge the gap by producing a film that simply told the story of U.S. residents rather than pushing an agenda from either party.
“Listening to the American people is something Congress needs to do more often. I am proud that our committee has been able to do exactly that,” Rep. Bryan Steil, one of the Republicans on the committee, told the outlet. “From field hearings to interviews with American workers, Chairman Himes and I worked hard to ensure we heard from regular, working families across the country, not just the vested interests in Washington, D.C., who are always in the room.”
The House Economic Disparity and Fairness Committee features members from across the ideological spectrum, including Democrats such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) as well as Republican Reps. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) and Kat Cammack (R-FL).
The 30-minute short film marks a break from the traditional presentation of government findings in an effort to create a more humanizing effect.
The documentary was inspired in part by a similar project completed during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, according to the committee. During the Great Depression, a photographer named Roy Stryker was tasked with heading a photographic team inside a government agency called the Farm Security Administration. The photographer was instructed to document the U.S. government’s efforts to help poor farmers and their families during the economic downturn, resulting in some of the most iconic and controversial photographs from that era.
To create something similar, Himes recruited a team of talented filmmakers and directors to produce the film. Himes tapped senior committee staffer Eric Harris to lead the documentary’s production, who brought in PBS Frontline producer Oscar Guerra to help direct the film, according to the Washington Post. Harris interviewed nearly 150 people across the country, narrowing the field down to three subjects to highlight in the film.
“This is certainly not an advertisement for how great the American government is,” Harris told the outlet. “But it does underscore the opportunities — and maybe even the exceptionalism — that this country had for ultimately providing opportunities to all three families in unique situations.”
The documentary is narrated by award-winning actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who described the project as “personal.”
“As someone who grew up in a family that experienced economic hardship firsthand, this was a unique opportunity to share stories of dignity and strength, shedding light on hardworking individuals across our country in their pursuit of the American Dream,” Parker said in a statement. “In this era of deep division, the need for empathy among Americans couldn’t be more important. I see this film as a vehicle for the kind of compassion and mutual understanding that’s missing amid this polarized time.”
The film, Grit & Grace: The Fight for the American Dream, is scheduled to premiere on Dec. 13 at the National Archives.