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Joshua Reviews Beth Gage’s Bidder 70 [Theatrical Review]

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With every day, more and more people coming to the side of science, palpable evidence, and just plain common sense with regards to the debate over climate change and man’s influence in that very concept, the movement is becoming stronger and stronger. However, there are still countless amounts of people willing to overlook the general public’s fears and concerns over man’s environmental footprint, and throw down the gauntlet against those willing to stand up and speak their minds.

One such activist is now not only a (justifiably) free man after a handful of months in federal prison, but also the focus of a new documentary entitled Bidder 70 that is both your standard low-budget independent documentary, and also a touching look at a man willing to do anything to give a voice to the voiceless masses.

The film follows the story of Tim DeChristopher, a man who in 2008, “disrupted” a Utah BLM Oil And Gas lease auction, giving empty bids that resulted in him winning roughly 22,000 acres of land that would have otherwise been won by various industry players. At $1.7 million at the end of the auction, the bids were never valid, thus landing him in hot water, ultimately finding him the recipient of two years in prison as of 2011, of which he made good on most of until being released earlier this year.

The documentary itself is not much of a spectacle. Garnering much of its weight from interviews with those involved with the man and the man himself, the film is not much aesthetically. Low in budget and even more muted in style, the film simply plays as chance for this man to get his message of action across to as many people as will actively listen.

DeChristopher is the star of the picture, and it’s as bright a star as you’ll find. Intensely charming, real and charismatic, you not only get the palpable sense that he could affect the lives of any and everyone he came across, but that his convictions are so true and pure, that the sadness of his voice being hindered becomes a gut punch directly to that cavity in the body where the heart allegedly is. His co-founding of a group called Peaceful Uprising touches upon this very fact, and if you are not in tears by the time of his sentencing, when DeChristopher himself stands outside the courtroom with his fist held firmly in the air, telling us all that it’s not over, that cavity I talked about? Well, yours may very well be empty.

As much as this film is a drama, hope and heart are also inherent within this picture. Ostensibly a true life courtroom drama, the film’s greatest sequences are not with DeChristopher alone. It’s in seeing how his voice has allowed others to find theirs. You feel as though his trials and tribulations have given strength to the overall public (or at least the ones that know of his existence, of which there may not be many), and that it is in this that he has completely and utterly succeeded. The film itself may not be pushing the documentary medium forward visually or creatively, but I’ll be damned if another documentary has as much heart.

Overall, clocking in at just a tad over an hour, the film is a breezy (almost to a fault) look at an activist and those that have truly been affected by his existence. Whereas most issue documentaries find an audience only with those that agree with the overall political bent that the picture has, the great thing about Bidder 70 and directors Beth and George Gage, is that they paint a portrait of a man who truly wants to do better by this world, if not for himself, for the generations to come. And that’s as universal an idea as there has ever been.

 

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.

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