Film Series: Runs & Limited Engagements

American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene V. Debs

2017, Yale Strom, USA, 98 min. Narrated by Amy Madigan.

Show Times

  • Fri, Mar 2nd 2:00pm
  • Fri, Mar 2nd 6:00pm
  • Sat, Mar 3rd 3:00pm
  • Tue, Mar 6th 6:00pm
  • Wed, Mar 7th 8:00pm
  • Thu, Mar 8th 6:00pm
Chicago premiere! Yale Strom in person!

Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign brought the often vilified term “socialism” into the mainstream of America political discourse, but Sanders was not the only American socialist to mount a substantial presidential bid. In 1920, Eugene V. Debs, in the last of his five campaigns for president, received nearly a million votes, even though he was serving a ten-year jail sentence for sedition. This engrossing documentary recounts the Indiana-born Debs’s remarkable life and heroic character, including his early years as a railroad worker, his rise as a labor organizer, his conversion to socialism, his co-founding of the IWW (aka Wobblies), his outspoken pacifism during World War I, his persecution by the government, his legendary skill as an orator, and his ability to reformulate Marxist ideas in accessible American and Christian terms. The film connects Debs to a once-vigorous tradition of working-class, Midwest-bred populism and points out his crucial influence on New Deal policies such as social security and workers’ rights that are still crucial (if gravely threatened) today. Director Strom (THE LAST KLEZMER), who spent five years researching the subject, brings the facts to life with deft storytelling, skilled voice actors (including Nick Cagle as Debs), and a lively musical score composed by Strom himself (who also performs on violin). DCP digital. (MR)

March 3: Director Yale Strom is scheduled to appear for audience discussion. The discussion will be moderated by Christopher Cutrone, Adjunct Associate Professor of Art History and Visual and Critical Studies at SAIC, and founder and President of the Platypus Affiliated Society.

Play Trailer