The Revisionaries

The Revisionaries

The Texas Capitol building at Austin, Texas as seen in THE REVISIONARIES, a film by Scott Thurman. Picture courtesy of Kino Lorber. All rights reserved.

The Revisionaries

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The Revisionaries (2012)

Opened: 10/05/2012 Limited

Limited10/05/2012
Dallas, TX10/05/2012 - 10/11/20127 days
Houston, TX10/12/2012 - 10/18/20127 days
Pasadena, CA10/26/2012 - 11/01/20127 days
NYC, NY10/26/2012 - 11/01/20127 days
DVD04/30/2013

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook

Genre: Historical Documentary

Rated: Unrated

The theory of evolution and a re-write of US history are caught in the crosshairs when an unabashed creationist seeks re-election as chairman of America's most influential board of education.

Synopsis

THE REVISIONARIES showcases how public education has become the latest battleground in a new wave of cultural, religious and ideological clashes, with local Texas education board members advancing agendas of Creationism and other religious issues in public schools.

This "must-see film" (Michael Moore) premiered at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Prize for Best Documentary. It was also an official selection at the Dallas International Film Festival, HotDocs, Seattle International Film Festival, and most recently, at the AFI - Silverdocs Documentary Festival - among many others.

With unprecedented access to the 15 people elected as members of the Texas State Board of Education, THE REVISIONARIES offers a behind-the-scenes look at how a small group of local officials decide what should be taught to the next generation of high school students across America.

Once every decade, the highly politicized Texas State Board rewrites the teaching and textbook standards for its nearly 5 million schoolchildren. Because of the huge scale of the Texas purchase and the economics of publishing, these rules are largely adopted by textbook publishers across the U.S., and in effect, dictate what students learn about science and social studies from Maine to Hawaii.

Don McLeroy, a dentist, young earth creationist and Sunday school teacher who believes dinosaurs and humans co-habited the earth, leads the religious right charge. During his time on the board, McLeroy has overseen the adoption of new science and history curriculum standards, placing Texas on the front line of the so-called "culture wars."

In his last term, McLeroy, aided by Cynthia Dunbar, a Law professor at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, found himself not only fighting to change what Americans are taught, but also struggling to retain his seat on the board.

Challenged by Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, and Ron Wetherington, an anthropology professor, McLeroy engaged in a national battle about the meaning of religious freedom and this country's separation between church and state.

Director's Statement

A few years ago I was inspired by an article by physicist Brian Greene called "Put a Little Science in Your Life." The article encouraged educators to communicate science in ways that capture the drama and excitement of new discoveries mixed in with the standard technical details. My fifth grade science teacher created this energy, sparking my imagination and interest in science and so I sought to produce a short portrait of a science teacher in Texas that's also moving minds with an intense and electrifying message.

At the time, I discovered a survey stating that half of the American public did not accept the theory of evolution and so I decided to focus my film on a Biology teacher and the lessons on evolution. Not long after I started following these classroom discussions, I learned about the political debate on the State Board of Education in Texas over how evolution would be taught in science and later how the concept of "separation between church and state" would be understood in social studies, among other controversial topics.

I became more interested in the political issue over time, but remained focused on having a character driven story. As I continued to seek intimate access to a few people that were heavily involved, I was drawn to the magnetic personality of Don McLeroy, chairman of the board, and outspoken creationist on a mission to convince the public and next generation of students that evolution is not sound science and that America is exceptional in part because it was founded on Christian principles. After a year of efforts to gain access, Don slowly opened up to me, eventually allowing me full access to his personal life at work, in his fourth grade Sunday school class and in his home.

I'm grateful for Don's willingness to have shared such exclusive aspects of his life for the documentary and my goal is for the compassion and complexities of Don's character to be appreciated and understood beyond the stereotypical persona that's been given to this small town dentist in the past.

-- Scott Thurman, Director

About The Players

Don McLeroy

Don McLeroy was born on June 3, 1946. After growing up in Dallas, Texas, he graduated in 1969 from Texas A&M University with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He then served two years in the U.S. Army after which he attended dental school in Houston, Texas. While in dental school, at age 28, Don became a Christian after an intellectual examination of the claims of Christianity. He later married, moved to Bryan, Texas where he opened his dental practice and he and his wife raised their family. After his conversion, Don examined the claims of evolution and found them surprisingly weak. He also further examined the claims of the Bible and Christian doctrine and found these amazingly coherent and strong. On the basis of both these examinations, he accepted the label of a "creationist" without apology. For the past 24 years Don has taught fourth grade Sunday school at Grace Bible Church, College Station, Texas. Additionally, after briefly serving on his local school board, he was elected to the Texas State Board of Education where he has served for the past 12 years.

Kathy Miller

Kathy Miller is president of the Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan organization that advances an agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties. The organization has been instrumental in defeating initiatives backed by the religious right in Texas. Kathy has appeared on Texas and national broadcast media and has testified before the Texas Legislature, State Board of Education and Congress. Based in her deep belief in the tremendous strength of the grassroots, Kathy has focused her career on mobilizing support for progressive issues, training community leaders on the political process and inspiring activists to combat the religions right in Texas. Before joining TFN in 2005, Kathy served as communications director for the Texas Council on Family Violence and National Domestic Violence Hotline and as public affairs director for Planned Parenthood Federation of Austin. Kathy earned a degree in political science from the University of Texas at Austin and attended the University of Texas graduate school, studying philosophy. She is the mother of two daughters, both attending public school in Austin.

Cynthia Dunbar

Cynthia Dunbar is a lawyer and author from Richmond, Texas. Cynthia graduated from Pat Robertson's Regent University School of Law in 1990 and during the 2009-2010 academic year, she commuted from her home in Texas to teach Constitutional Law at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University School of Law. In 2006, Cynthia was elected to the Texas State Board of Education, in part, because of her support for the teaching of intelligent design in science classes. ("Dunbar wins party's nomination," Dallas Morning News, Mar 8, 2006.) In her 2008 book "One Nation Under God: How The Left is Trying To Erase What Made us Great," Cynthia argued that the country's founding fathers created "an emphatically Christian government" and that government should be guided by a "biblical litmus test." In the book, Cynthia also referred to public education as a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion" and stated that the establishment of public schools is unconstitutional and even "tyrannical." According to Dunbar, her book was not written for the general public. Instead, she wrote it as "an educational tool to the body of Christ," and to serve asa "wake-up call [for Christians] to be informed [and] to be involved." ("Educator ripped for her book criticizing public schools," Houston Chronicle, Dec. 4, 2008.) In early 2008, Cynthia ran for the Republican nomination for the United States House of Representatives representing Texas's 22nd congressional district, the district formerly represented by Tom DeLay, but she eventually withdrew and endorsed Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

Ron Wetherington

Ron Wetherington is a professor of anthropology in SMU's Dedman college of Humanities and Sciences and director of the University's Center for Teaching Excellence. Ron is an expert in evolutionary theory, and his research interests include population genetics, human paleontology, science pedagogy and the historical archaeology of the U.S. Southwest. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in human evolution and forensic anthropology, as well as a noncredit required course for departmental graduate students, "Learning to Teach - Teaching to Learn." He is the author of Understanding Human Evolution and 4 other books on anthropology and archaeology. He was appointed as an expert reviewer in 2008-09 by the Texas State Board of Education to evaluated new science curriculum standards. The Texas Freedom Network has awarded him the "Grassroots Hero" award in 2009, stating: "Whether working behind the scenes to patiently educate board members or in front of the cameras making a vocal case for science standards free from creationist ideology, Dr. Wetherington has worked tirelessly to ensure Texas students have a rigorous science curriculum that will prepare them for the 21st century."

About the Filmmakers

Scott Thurman (Director/Writer/Producer)

Scott Thurman, born in Lubbock, Texas is an M.F.A. graduate in documentary film from the University of North Texas. He has worked as a news photographer for 4 years and has produced 3 short films at the University of North Texas, including "Smokey" a short documentary about an Elvis impersonator that has been selected by film festivals around the U.S. including AFI Dallas, Los Angeles Film Festival, Hot Springs Doc Festival, and Austin Film Festival, among others. Scott originally conceived of a documentary film about the Texas Board of Education for his thesis project "Standing Up to the Experts."

Jawad Metni (Writer/Editor)

Jawad Metni has worked in documentary film and television since 1995 as a producer, editor, cinematographer and director. He co-produced and photographed George Ratliff's feature debut "The Plutonium Circus" (1995), which won best documentary at South By Southwest. He also photographed the acclaimed documentary "Hell House" which premiered at the 2001 Toronto Film festival and has become a cult classic. His other films as a director include "Downwind" (2001), "Trading with the Enemy" (2003), "Rumble in Mumbai" (2004), and his latest "Remnants of a War" (2009), about unexploded cluster bombs in Lebanon. Since 2004, he has worked as a producer and editor for clients such as PBS, the History Channel, Babelgum, Glamour Magazine, Southwest Airlines, Google, IKEA, Kohler, Oprah's OWN Network, Pepsi and MTV. He lives and works in New York.

Pierson Silver (Producer)

A founding partner of Silver Lining Film Group, Pierson Silver has worked with cinematographers such as John Lindley ("Reservation Road" 2001), Philippe Rousselot ("The Brave One" 2007), John Bailey ("When in Rome" 2010), Janusz Kaminski ("Munich" 2005) and Matthew Libatique ("Inside Man" 2006). Pierson has also performed specialty camera work on several other major motion pictures, as well as New York based television, and commercial productions such as "The Other Guys" (2010), "Shutter Island" (2010), "The Ghost Writer" (2010), "Fast Five" (2011), and "Men in Black III" (2012). Most recently Pierson shot and produced the film version of the rock opera "Screen Test" (2009), which premiered at the Museum of Art and Design.

Orlando Wood (Producer)

Since starting Magic Hour Entertainment, Orlando Wood has produced two documentary features - "One Big Lie" about Bernard Madoff's massive ponzi scheme and "The Revisionaries." He also developed the feature "Welcome To The Punch" with Eran Creevy and Beat Films. The film stars James McAvoy and will release in summer 2012. Orlando's background is in advertising production and he's produced over 100 ads for some of the world's most recognizable brands. Orlando runs Biscuit Filmworks UK, the international arm of renowned LA production company Biscuit Filmworks.

Jim Butterworth (Executive Producer)

Jim Butterworth is the founder and president of Naked Edge Films, where he has served as executive producer for films including "The Revisionaries," "Gone", "Donor Unknown," "War Don Don," "The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan," and "Cape Spin." Jim's own film "Seoul Train," which he produced, directed and shot, has been translated to more than twenty languages and broadcast on TV globally. In 2007, "Seoul Train" was bestowed the Alfred I. duPont - Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcast journalism and investigative reporting, and also was runner-up for the National Journalism Award. Jim also is a successful technology entrepreneur and investor, and an advisor to a number of nonprofits, start-up companies and investment funds. He was one of the pioneers in the streaming of audio and video over the Internet, and holds 12 issued U.S. and foreign patents in this field.

Vijay Dewan (Executive Producer)

Vijay is currently a litigation associate at a large New York law firm. After graduating Columbia University, Vijay worked in the regulatory group at the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell for two years. At Notre Dame Law School, Vijay focused on constitutional law issues, including Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion. Vijay graduated Notre Dame Law School with honors in 2008. After graduating law school, Vijay has played an active role in New York and national politics, including co-organizing Young Lawyers for Obama during Barack Obama's successful presidential campaign. More recently, Vijay worked on Cy Vance's successful campaign for Manhattan District Attorney and Kirsten Gillibrand's successful senatorial campaign.

Chandra C. Silver (Co-Producer)

After graduating from NYU, Chandra began her career in film at Hart Sharp Entertainment ("You Can Count on Me" (2000), "Boy's Don't Cry" (1999)). Chandra then worked in the independent featurepackaging department under Arianna Bocco at The Gersh Agency in New York where she aided in the foundation of the film sales department. After her time at Gersh, Chandra began her work with Mary Jane Skalski ("Mysterious Skin" (2004), "The Station Agent" (2003)) on Tom McCarthy's film "The Visitor" (2007), which earned an Oscar nomination for Richard Jenkins. Since beginning her work at Silver Lining Film Group, Chandra has developed and produced the short film "Trophy Wife" (2010), which premiered at OutFest 2010.

Daniel J. Chalfen (Co-Producer)

Daniel J. Chalfen is a founder of and producer at Naked Edge Films. His most recent documentaries include "Code of the West" which premiered at SXSW 2012; "Cape Spin" which premiered at IDFA 2011; "Donor Unknown" (produced with ARTE, More 4 and VPRO), which premiered at the 2010 Sheffield Doc/Fest then went on to screen at IDFA, Tribeca and Silverdocs (the latter two at which it won an Audience Award), and broadcast in the U.S. on the PBS series Independent Lens; "GONE," which premiered at Tribeca in 2011, and was broadcast on Discovery ID in the U.S.; "War Don Don," which premiered at SXSW, where it won a Special Jury Mention, and was broadcast in the U.S. on HBO, and was nominated for two Emmys; and "Budrus," which premiered at Dubai then screened at Berlin, Tribeca and Silverdocs, among other festivals, each of which where it won an award. Earlier credits include "The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan," Executive Produced by Danny Glover; "Meeting Resistance," which won the Golden Award at the Al Jazeera International Documentary Festival; "Encounter Point"; "39 Pounds of Love," which was produced with HBO Documentary Films and was short-listed for an Academy Award; and "Pulled from the Rubble," which became an ABC Special. Daniel's non-fiction television series include "Happy France" for ARTE and "Ordinary People," which was broadcast worldwide. His forthcoming films include "Pretty Old," Executive Produced by Joe Berlinger and Sarah Jessica Parker, "The Revisionaries," and "The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest."

 

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