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Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism

Special thanks to Director, Brittany Huckabee, and
Special thanks to Andrew Walworth, Grace Creek Productions

Excerpts from PBS Blurb (with emphases added by me) …

A 3 hour documentary series produced by (Grace Creek Productions) & BJW, Inc.

“Most of the people in the world today call the name of their dream Socialism.”

– Michael Harrington, 1968

Much of the history of the past 200 years revolved around a single idea.

It was the vision that life could be lived in peace and brotherhood if only property were shared by all and distributed equally, eliminating the source of greed, envy, poverty and strife. This idea was called “socialism” and it was man’s most ambitious attempt to supplant religion with a doctrine grounded on science rather than revelation.

It became the most popular political idea in history.

Statue of Marx and Engels. A part of the Marx-Engels-Forum in Berlin-Mitte.

Its provenance was European, but it spread to China and Africa, India and Latin America and even to that most tradition-bound of regions, the Middle East.

While it never fully took root in America, its influence shaped the nation’s political debate. At its crest in the 1970s, roughly 60 percent of the earth’s population lived under governments that espoused socialism in one form or another.

Then, suddenly, it all collapsed.

Because its goal proved so elusive, the socialist movement split and split again into diverse, sometimes murderously contradictory forms.

There was Social Democracy, which insisted that only peaceful and democratic means could produce a harmonious commonwealth. There was Communism, which extolled the resolute use of force and dictatorship to propel mankind to a new way of life. There was Arab Socialism, African Socialism, and other Third World variants that sought to amalgamate western Social Democracy and eastern Communism. There was even fascism, which turned the socialist idea on its head by substituting the brotherhood of nation and race for the brotherhood of class. And there were those – from early American settlers, to the “flower children” of the 1960s, to Israeli Zionist kibbutzniks – who built their own socialist communities, hoping to transform the world by the force of example.

As an idea that changed the way people thought, socialism’s success was spectacular. As a critique of capitalism that helped spawn modern social safety nets and welfare states, its success was appreciable. As a model for the development of post-colonial states, the socialist model proved disappointing, fostering economic stagnation among millions of the world’s poorest people. And in its most violent forms, socialism was calamitous, claiming scores of millions of lives and helping to make the twentieth century the bloodiest ever.

Through profiles of the individuals that brought socialism to life, HEAVEN ON EARTH tells the story of how an idea arose, evolved, changed the world, and eventually fell.

Episode 1: THE RISE

Robert Owen (1771 - 1858)

ROBERT OWEN & UTOPIAN SOCIALISM

In 1825 a progressive British industrialist travels to America to create a utopian community. Owen believes that abolishing private property will liberate mankind.

MARX AND ENGELS: BIRTH OF A MANIFESTO

Two young Germans forge a friendship that gives birth to the Communist Manifesto. Their analysis of history as a struggle between classes and their prophecy of the inevitable overthrow of capitalism define the movement.

EDUARD BERNSTEIN & A CRISIS OF FAITH

At the end of the 19th century, the intellectual heir of Marxism tries to reconcile the prediction of labor’s revolt with the reality of improved working conditions. The movement splits, Communism and Social Democracy part ways.

Vladimir Lenin (1870 - 1924)

LENIN & THE BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION

Vladimir Lenin responds to Bernstein’s critique by igniting a violent revolution and creating the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

SAMUEL GOMPERS & AMERICAN LABOR

While Europe faces revolution, American workers are organized by a former cigar-maker. Gompers rejects socialism and helps give birth to the American Federation of Labor.

CANADIAN SOCIALISM

American farmers’ organizations head north, leading to the creation of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the C.C.F.

Episode 2: REVOLUTIONS

Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler

MUSSOLINI & FASCISM

Inspired by Lenin’s Russian revolution, Italy’s Benito Mussolini embraces socialism and joins forces with Adolf Hitler to create National Socialism, or fascism.

CHINA & THE SPREAD OF COMMUNISM

Following World War II, Mao Zedong reforms China through nationalized industry, collectivized agriculture and complete state control over every aspect of daily life.

CLEMENT ATTLEE & SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

In Britain, a different kind of socialism takes hold after the Second World War, democratic socialism. Attlee’s Labour Party creates a comprehensive social welfare system and nationalizes major British industries.

THE KIBBUTZ

The Zionist movement in Israel creates collective socialist villages called kibbutzim. Residents of Kibbutz Ginosar describe the early years of this communal experiment.

JULIUS NYERERE & THIRD WORLD SOCIALISM

With the end of British colonial rule, Julius “Mwalimu” Nyerere turns to socialism to reshape Tanzania. He blends the teachings of Marx with African traditions to create what is heralded as the developing world’s alternative to Soviet-style communism.

GREAT BRITAIN IN THE 1970s

Economic stagnation challenges the Labour Party’s hold on British politics and opens the door for Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government.

THE KIBBUTZ PART II

As the second generation comes of age on the kibbutz, these socialist communities gradually move away from collectivism.

TANZANIA’S UJAMAA VILLAGES

Impatient with the lack of socialist progress, Nyerere begins to force Tanzanian’s to adopt his vision of the ideal collective society.

Episode 3: THE COLLAPSE

Gorbachev and Reagan

GORBACHEV & REFORM

Mikhail Gorbachev confronts the violent past of Stalinism, but his efforts to bring a new openness to Soviet life have unintended consequences.

DENG XIAOPING & MODERNIZATION

In the 1980s, Deng de-collectivizes the communes that formed the soul of the Chinese Communist revolution. His reforms look suspiciously like capitalism.

GORBACHEV & REVOLUTION

Gorbachev’s efforts to reform socialism in the Soviet Union unleash forces that unravel the State’s control and lead to a complete transformation of the Communist world.

TONY BLAIR & NEW LABOUR

Blair transforms Attlee’s socialist Labour Party into “the party of business.”

THE FUTURE OF SOCIALISM

Socialists and capitalists debate the impact of the collapse of communism and the political reversals of Social Democratic parties across Europe. Some ask whether the very definition of socialism is changing.

THE KIBBUTZ PART III

Residents of Kibbutz Ginosar observe how market forces are transforming their community.

 

Ayn Rand & the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged

Presented with special thanks to Fawaz Al-Matrouk

Written, Produced, Directed by Chris Mortensen – a television producer and documentary filmmaker whose many programs have appeared worldwide. In the U.S. his documentary subjects have ranged from Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, Hermann Goering and John Paul Jones to American Gangsters, the HIV crisis and the Iraq War. From Professional Wrestling to Halle Berry to the Suez Canal, his programs have appeared on Discovery, A&E, History Channel, ESPN, Fox Sports, BET, TV One, et al.

Ayn Rand & the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged is a feature length documentary film that examines the resurging interest in Ayn Rand’s epic and controversial 1957 novel and the validity of its dire prediction for America.

Set in what novelist and philosopher Rand called ‘the day after tomorrow,’ Atlas depicts an America in crisis, brought to her knees by a corrupt establishment of government regulators and businessmen with political pull – the ‘looters’ and the ‘moochers’ – who prey on individual achievement.

Less a conventional work of fiction than a philosophical manifesto in the form of a romantic novel, over the course of a thousand-plus pages, Atlas tackles no less an essential argument than the one debated by philosophers and theologians since time immemorial: altruism vs. self-interest. Am I my brother’s keeper – or not? For Ayn Rand, the answer is an emphatic no. To Rand and the disciples of her Objectivist philosophy, self-sacrifice is as heinous an act as murder … murder of the soul.

Upon publication, Atlas Shrugged was widely scorned by critics for its ‘preposterous’ plot and one-dimensional characters. Intellectuals and academics from across the ideological spectrum roundly dismissed the new and original philosophy called ‘Objectivism’ that Rand so compellingly illustrated in the novel.

Despite this pummeling, Atlas became a best seller and has remained in print ever selling a healthy 75,000 or so copies each year. Then with the new century, sales began to increase dramatically. In 2007, its fiftieth anniversary year, Atlas sold a record 180,000 copies. Since then Atlas Shrugged – published over a half century ago – has sold over a million copies.

Why? Because – as evidenced by pointed and frequent references to Rand and Atlas Shrugged in the media – an increasing number of Americans – right or wrong – see their society devolving into a nightmare scenario like the one Rand projected over a half century ago.

Ayn Rand & the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged looks into Rand’s background for the ideas and philosophy that inspired and shaped her novel and seeks to determine whether America is indeed headed for the disastrous outcome she predicted.

Sole of a Hustla


Presented with the kind permission of Dave Compton, Broken Pencil Productions & Two Million Minutes

What makes some men succeed where others fail? Is it smarts? Skills? Street sense? On the streets of Memphis, Tennessee, just one thing separates the “coulda, woulda, shoulda beens” from the Kings: Hustle.

Just ask Checliss “Big C” Rice.

Sole of a Hustla follows Big C from small time street hustler to big time businessman and CEO of Gametime Athletics — the would-be shoe empire of every starry-eyed entrepreneur’s dreams.

With the help of venture capitalist and filmmaker Bob Compton, an airtight business plan and mountain of cash to back him, Big C and his cobbled together crew set out to turn their aspirations into reality. But here in the corporate jungle, it’s a whole different kind of hustle.

Driven by a electrifying soundtrack produced by Jack Oblivian, Sole examines the essence of “hustle,”showing us just how far it can take you, and just how far it can’t. It’s also a story about friends doing whatever it takes to rise above the status quo, and realize the life of pride and dignity that all men, willing to hustle, deserve.

China Wins


Presented with the kind permission of Dave Compton, Broken Pencil Productions & Two Million Minutes

The world’s largest and most lucrative business-plan competition is held… not in the United States or in any western country, but in communist China.

Beyond the 1.3 billion Chinese, the competition goes largely unnoticed in the rest of the world. But in communist China the competition, aptly named Win in China, is broadcast on national TV.

Over 120,000 entrepreneurs compete for prize money in excess of $5 million with the winner receiving nearly $1.5 million dollars to invest in their new business plan.

Commentators in the film include Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group and Chairman of Yahoo China, James Fallows, correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and China expert Orville Schell.

Win in China is more than a lucrative business plan competition – it is an opportunity for the government to educate, motivate and inspire the latent entrepreneurial talent in the most populous nation on earth. Beneath the game show’s surface lies a nuanced, subtle view of Chinese business practices, ambitions, ethical norms and competitive behavior.

A Right Denied: The Critical Need for Genuine Education Reform


Presented with the kind permission of Dave Compton, Broken Pencil Productions & Two Million Minutes

Most Americans have long known that our public schools aren’t getting the job done, but as our country increasingly falls behind our economic competitors and a wide academic gap within our country persists between low-income, minority students and their more affluent peers, these twin achievement gaps have reached crisis proportions. Simply put, the failure of our public schools is the most pressing domestic issue our nation faces.

There’s good news, however: we now know what must be done to fix our schools and a wave of reform is beginning to sweep the country. But it won’t be easy – the system, while failing children, has been working very well for the adults, who fight ferociously to maintain the unacceptable status quo. The outcome of this battle will determine the long-term future of our country.

Whitney Tilson has been engaged in this fight for more than 20 years, when he was one of the first people to join Wendy Kopp in starting Teach for America. Wendy later introduced him to David Levin, the co-founder of the KIPP network of charter schools, and he’s served on KIPP’s board for nearly a decade. He’s also one of the founders of Democrats for Education Reform, the Rewarding Achievement (REACH) program, and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, and serves on the board of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the Council of Urban Professionals, and the Pershing Square Foundation.

After spending more than two decades on the front lines, witnessing first-hand public education’s dramatic failures and remarkable successes, Mr. Tilson was inspired to assemble a powerful and at times unsettling presentation about the twin achievement gaps and what must be done to address them. He utilizes the latest data and research to paint the most detailed portrait of American public education ever committed to film. More importantly, he presents us with a way forward so our nation can deliver on its promise to all of its children and ensure its long-term future.

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Two Million Minutes: The 21st Century Solution


Presented with the kind permission of Dave Compton, Broken Pencil Productions & Two Million Minutes

For 25 years, report after report has shown that American students are falling further and further behind the rest of the world intellectually. As the American public school system fails to adapt to this century, schools in China and India produce four times the number of high school graduates as the U.S. and educate these students to a much higher level.

Having revealed this frightening decline in his first documentary Two Million Minutes, executive producer Robert A. Compton next searched the world for the best high schools in the hopes of discovering a solution to America’s education crisis.

Then, in one of the poorest areas of America, Compton discovered a school that teaches ordinary U.S. children at an extraordinarily high academic level. This school demonstrates that American students are capable of competing academically with the best in the world given the right curriculum, the right teachers, the right inspiration, and expectation for success.

Despite the decline of public education, the decades ahead can be ones of prosperity and economic growth for the United States, provided the American people have the will and the leadership to embrace The 21st Century Solution.

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Two Million Minutes in China: A deeper look at Chinese Education

Presented with the kind permission of Dave Compton, Broken Pencil Productions & Two Million Minutes

In 2007 the provocative documentary film Two Million Minutes: A Global Examination premiered. Comparing and contrasting the two million minutes of high school in India, China and the U.S., the film raised awareness and rattled cages from Harvard to the halls of power.

Now one year later, the students have completed their freshman year of college. In Two Million Minutes Chapter 3, we bring together the two American students and the two Chinese students for a candid, compelling roundtable discussion.

How well did high school prepare them? Do they wish they had done things differently? How do they see their peers in other countries now? What has their first year of college been like? How different is the college experience between these two countries?

With a mission to “cultivate within each of its students a balance of Chinese wisdom and a global perspective”, Xiwai International School is pioneering a new path in Chinese education – a public-private joint venture in education between Xiwai Investment Co. and Shanghai International Studies University . The former is a company specializing in education investment; it consists of shareholders and senior managers, including individuals from the international banking sector, such as Goldman Sachs, and from Chinese and overseas educational institutions. Shanghai International Studies University is one of China ‘s key universities, directly under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Ministry of Education.

How is traditional Chinese K-12 education changing? What are the strengths of the historical approach? What are you trying to achieve with new approaches? How much freedom do high school principals and teachers have? How do you balance teaching Communist philosophy with capitalist economics? China seems to have a very active “Gifted and Talented” program – can you elaborate? What can Chinese educators learn from America? What can American educators learn from China?

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Two Million Minutes in India: A Deeper Look at Indian Education


Presented with the kind permission of Dave Compton, Broken Pencil Productions & Two Million Minutes

In 2007 the provocative documentary film Two Million Minutes: A Global Examination premiered. Comparing and contrasting the two million minutes of high school in India, China and the U.S., the film raised awareness and rattled cages from Harvard to the halls of power.

Now one year later, the students have completed their freshman year of college. In Two Million Minutes Chapter 2, we bring together the two American students and the two Indian students for a candid, compelling roundtable discussion.

How well did high school prepare them? Do they wish they had done things differently? How do they see their peers in other countries now? What has their first year of college been like? How different is the college experience between these two countries?

What is it like being a principal of a K-12 school in India? How does the curriculum differ? How do teacher credentials differ? What challenges do Indian schools face compared to U.S. schools? What can Indian educators learn from America? What can American educators learn from India?

In a wide-ranging interview, Bob Compton explores in detail the differences and similarities between Indian and American education with Principal Sundari Rao.

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2 Million Minutes: A Global Examination

Presented with the kind permission of Dave Compton, Broken Pencil Productions & Two Million Minutes

Regardless of nationality, as soon as a student completes the 8th grade, the clock starts ticking. From that very moment the child has approximately –

… Two Million Minutes until high school graduation

… Two Million Minutes to build their intellectual foundation

… Two Million Minutes to prepare for college and ultimately career

… Two Million Minutes to go from a teenager to an adult.

How a student spends their Two Million Minutes – in class, at home studying, playing sports, working, sleeping, socializing or just goofing off — will affect their economic prospects for the rest of their lives.

How do most American high school students spend this time? What about students in the rest of the world? How do family, friends and society influence a student’s choices for time allocation? What implications do their choices have on their future and on a country’s economic future?

This film takes a deeper look at how the three superpowers of the 21st Century – China, India and the United States – are preparing their students for the future.

As we follow two students – a boy and a girl – from each of these countries, we compose a global snapshot of education, from the viewpoint of kids preparing for their future.

Our goal is to tell the broader story of the universal importance of education today, and address what many are calling a crisis for U.S. schools regarding chronically low scores in math and science indicators.

Robert (Bob) Compton

The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System

Presented with the kind permission of Dave Compton, Broken Pencil Productions & Two Million Minutes

Finland’s education system has consistently ranked among the best in the world for more than a decade. The puzzle is, why Finland?

Documentary filmmaker, Bob Compton, along with Harvard researcher, Dr. Tony Wagner, decided to find out.

The result of their research is captured in a new film, “The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System”.

In the 60-minute film, Dr. Wagner guides the viewer through an inside look at the world’s finest secondary education system.

A life-long educator and author of the best-selling book “The Global Achievement Gap,” Dr. Wagner is uniquely qualified to explore and explain Finland’s success.

From within classrooms and through interviews with students, teachers, parents, administrators and government officials, Dr. Wagner reveals the surprising factors accounting for Finland’s rank as the #1 education system in the world.

Tony Wagner

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