Waking the sleeping giant: the people behind the candidate

| Staff Writer

It’s no secret that the 2016 election was divisive and turbulent; one look at the news cycle of the season makes that clear. Post-clusterf— of the 2016 election, it has become increasingly difficult to find unique political commentary.

“Waking the Sleeping Giant: The Making of a Political Revolution,” which premiered at the St. Louis International Film Fest Nov. 11, manages to overcome the pattern of unoriginality by exploring the 2016 election through a structure that elevates the voice of underrepresented Americans—the not-so-silent majority whose anger and passion both fueled and doomed Bernie Sanders’ grassroots campaign.


According to producer Kathryn Goldman, the film was originally supposed to follow Bernie’s run. It didn’t take the team long to realize that with Bernie, “what you see is what you get.” So, they turned the idea of the project on its head: They made the project about the people behind the candidate.

To represent the forces that propelled Bernie to national prominence, the project team followed individuals such as millennial organizers with Democracy Spring, a sixth-generation West Virginian, an active member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and Sanders himself.

This format finds its success by mirroring the structure of the Sanders campaign. Informing the perspective of a rural West Virginian, honing in on the unheard voices of racial justice and elevating the millennial perspective are all so intensely Sanders-ian that it only made sense for the film to take advantage of the uniqueness of his campaign’s grassroots structure.

The project began in 2016. Its production team, much like Bernie himself, had absolutely no idea what to expect from the election.

“Did we expect one specific thing? No. Did we think it was going to be interesting? Yes,” Goldman said.

Not knowing what was going to happen didn’t keep the team from being interested in the zeitgeist of the times.

“We just knew there was something big happening around the country,” Goldman said.

And they intended to pursue that pattern and draw out its implications.

The team’s dedication to authentically sharing the narrative of the ever-changing political climate is what allowed the film to develop such a unique social commentary. It’s almost revolutionary in and of itself to elevate common Americans to the level seen in “Waking the Sleeping Giant.”

The film portrays a desire to view the American experience in a way that necessitates the understanding of people who aren’t just like you. Therein is the crux of the film.

“Waking the Sleeping Giant” has been accepted into the International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam where it will be featured as a “Doc for Sale.”

This opportunity elevates its status as a film of international importance and will effectually propagate its message on a global scale, with the hopes that it will continue to spread, quite thematically, as a grassroots phenomenon.