Joshua Reviews Scott Thurman’s The Revisionaries [Theatrical Review]

you are just now getting from under your respective rock, you’ll discover that you’re smack dab in the middle of a hotly contested election cycle. Republicans, in full defense mode, are trying to make waves to not only take seats throughout government, but ultimately control the White House, and the Democrats, well, they are simply looking to not make a flub. With President Obama firmly in the lead in polls, you’d imagine that the left-set of this country would be rolling. However, that’s not the case, as conservative politicians have some of the most influential seats within beauracracy, even down to the level of a Board of Education.

That’s right, a state’s Board of Education. Here’s the skinny. Texas, along with California, purchase the most textbooks within the country. Therefore, being the largest consumer of educational texts, they have the odd ability to go through, along with the publishers, and revise/edit the textbooks to include things that they seem fit. Whipping out Benjamin Franklin from the texts? Sure, why the Hell not. Not a hip hop fan? They would rather see country music featured anyways.

And this is where the new Scott Thurman documentary The Revisionaries comes in. Focusing on the story of the chairman of the group and his strive for re-election, the film not only looks at that man, small-town dentist-turned-Creationist politician Don McLeroy, but the larger issue/idea of historical textbooks becoming political fodder for those with admitted differences in their sociological interests.

Winner of Tribeca’s Special Jury Mention award at this year’s festival, the recently released Kino Lorber-distributed picture is quite an intriguing doc. The film doesn’t make many bones about what side of the aisle it stands upon. However, instead of taking a Bill Maher-esque route of vocalizing its disdain for both the man at its center and also the concept that is its focus, it allows the men and women that fill up the film do that for it. Take the lead for example. As a dentist, McLeroy takes to his chair, not only to drill and take out teeth, but he admits to using the office as a pulpit of sorts. Calling them a captive audience, the man himself becomes a far darker example of political angst. Toss in the footage of the meetings of the Board that come off as a group of middle school students doing nothing more than debating the merits of rap music as opposed to country music, and you have a collection of footage that makes this entire concept come off as even more ludicrous than it already truly is.

However, this is also one of the film’s weakest aspects. Only briefly mentioning why or how it got to this place, the film does nothing to let us in to people or entities that are looking to try and change this. An admittedly left-leaning feature documentary, the film does touch upon the idea that the concept itself was flawed from day one, and not for political reasons but for humanist reasons, but it doesn’t look forward. With any great politically focused documentary, there is always a distinct look forward. A look at what needs to be done, should be done, and will be done. That isn’t here. Polls close, political seats change hands, but the film ultimately carries with it a melancholy tone handed over by the narrative that frankly, plays the entire story like an unending cycle.

Overall, The Revisionaries will scare the Hell out of any human being with a sense of right and wrong, and while it won’t leave you with any hope going forward for the state of American intellectualism and education, the film in all of its passive glory, paints a rather clear cut story about the education system. Avoiding the Morgan Spurlock-esque bombastic narration, the film is a solid portrait of one of this country’s biggest systematic issues.

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.