Variance Films To Distribute Controversial 'Citizen Koch' Doc (Exclusive)

Citizen Koch Capitol - H 2014

Citizen Koch Capitol - H 2014

Carl Deal and Tia Lessin's film, which criticizes the Koch Brothers' support of the Tea Party, became the center of controversy when ITVS withdrew finishing funds for the project.

Variance Films is partnering with filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin to release Citizen Koch, the duo's documentary about the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling and billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch's behind-the-scenes support of the Tea Party. It will be released theatrically in North America in the spring.

The film, which debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, became the center of controversy when the Independent Television Service, which receives funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, withdrew $150,000 in finishing funds it had earmarked for the film. A report in The New Yorker suggested ITVS withdrew its support after PBS' Independent Lens aired a second film, Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream, which was also critical of David Koch, who is a benefactor and board member of PBS' New York station WNET. In response, ITVS claimed it withdrew its support because the filmmakers' cut of the film did not reflect their original proposal.

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Arguing that Koch and others were trying to silence their film, Deal and Lessin turned to Kickstarter, where donations from more than 3,400 contributors provided the money they needed to finish the film.

Citizen Koch investigates the impact of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling through the lens of three Wisconsin state employees, all life-long Republicans, who discover that Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party-aligned group founded and funded by the Koch Brothers, is leading the unsuccessful effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

"We wanted a distributor who would be passionate and also be a true partner, and we found it in Variance," Deal said.

"Variance understands the power of this film to not just engage and incite audiences throughout the country, but also to entertain," commented Lessin. "We were also very comforted to learn that Variance receives no funding from Charles and David Koch."

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"Citizen Koch is the textbook example of why Variance Films exists," said Variance founder and president Dylan Marchetti.  "It's a fantastic film from acclaimed filmmakers that calls for an aggressive, innovative, and people-powered campaign. That's us, and we can't wait to show you all what we've been working on with Carl and Tia to ensure the word gets out far and wide. Whether you're a hard-core liberal, a recovering moderate, or a true-blue conservative, you have to admit that something is wrong -- and we think Citizen Koch shines a bright light directly on it."

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The film was directed and produced by Deal and Lessin for their company Elsewhere Films. The deal was brokered by the filmmakers and Marchetti on behalf of Variance Films.