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A ‘Cold Shower’ Film About Our National Debt

“The subject matter is directly in line with a number of issues that we’re concerned with,” Walker said of the foundation’s interest in the film. “Most people don’t want to read about [the debt] every day and unfortunately many Americans have their own debt problem. ... Basically, our view was there is a need to state the facts and speak the truth to the American people about where we are.”

Creadon and Walker both stress that the film is committed to presenting the issue in a nonpartisan light and maintained that Creadon retained full creative license over the final cut after the foundation became involved.

Creadon said he has heard criticism from the far left and right that the film is biased in one direction or the other, but he points to the range of ideologies and backgrounds by experts he interviewed as a healthy balance.

“There are things in the film that not everyone in the film agrees with,” he said, noting that negative feedback included a Sundance attendee who called the film “arch-conservative propaganda” and a member of a prominent think tank on the right who said the film leaned too far left.

The film also includes satirical sketches from the “Colbert Report” and “Saturday Night Live” and snippets from man-on-the-street interviews highlighting widespread ignorance about the issue. Walker and others backing the film hope that interjecting the issue into the country’s collective pop culture-saturated psyche will be buzz-worthy enough to get the presidential candidates to address the deficit on the trail.

Lawmakers who viewed the film at a screening Thursday night echoed that hope.

“The real issue here is how do you get the presidential candidates to make this an issue today,” Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said after the screening. “I think unless this becomes an issue in the campaign and a very significant issue, we’re not going to get the leadership we need.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) agreed, emphasizing the need to “keep all options on the table” to solve the problem. He said the film succeeds in addressing a fifth deficit as well — a nationwide knowledge deficit.

“The American people do not have a sense of the fiscal hole we have dug for ourselves,” he said.

The film closes with a short list of solutions focused on holding the politicians and the public accountable for national and personal debt and encouraging a bipartisan effort to bring more responsibility to the country’s financial policies. Most importantly, backers hope the film sparks more public discourse about the issue.

“There is blame to go around everywhere. It’s not just Washington, either,” Creadon said. “We have a very serious problem on our hands.”

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