‘What’s the Matter with Kansas?’ film director discusses differences from book
Joe Winston and Laura Cohen, came to Kansas to film a documentary based on a book of political commentary.
But for the movie version, the Chicago husband-and-wife filmmaking team decided to let the state speak for itself.
Winston visited Basehor Community Library on Monday for a screening and discussion of the film, “What's the Matter with Kansas?”
The event was the first of its kind in the area, a collaboration among the Bonner Springs Library, Tonganoxie Public Library and the Basehor library that brought in a national-profile speaker.
During an hourlong question-and-answer session with the 64 visitors in attendance, Winston filled in the audience on how he and his wife filmed and produced the film, why it differed from the bestselling 2004 Thomas Frank book on which it was based, and what has happened to some of its real-life characters since filming was completed in 2007.
Several people asked about why the book's left-tilting political message — that the rise of the conservative movement in Kansas has caused many of its citizens to vote against their own economic interests — was not expressed as strongly in the movie.
That difference, Winston said, resulted from a conscious decision by the filmmakers, as well as Frank, the author of the book.
At the time they were planning the film in the mid-2000s, Winston said, a number of highly opinionated documentaries were hitting screens, the most famous of which were those directed by liberal commentator Michael Moore.
“Laura and I thought it would be interesting to take a slightly different tack with this,” Winston said, “because we think that sort of the traditional, rallying-the-troops political message movie, that can be pretty divisive.”
For more on the film discussion, including video, check Thursday's online and print editions of the Sentinel.