“The Brainwashing of My Dad” looks at how our loved ones can become ranting political nut-cases


Opening Theatrically in New York (Cinema Village) and Los Angeles (Laemmle Music Hall) on Friday, March 18, 2016 is a political documentary, The Brainwashing of My Dad.

Right-wing cable news and “conservative” talk radio attract older Americans like graying moths to an angry flame. But why would someone who was either apolitical or a Democrat in younger days become addicted to conservative talk shows in their twilight years?

Filmmaker Jen Senko wondered how her WWII veteran and Kennedy Democrat father had been transformed into a Fox News fanatic, suddenly and inexplicably railing against minorities, homosexuals, poor people, and Democrats.

It began when the filmmaker’s father took a new job that required long commutes and he started listening to right-wing talk shows on the radio on his drives. They turned out to be merely the gateway drug. As Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel took off and ushered in a new era of 24-hour news cycles and rabid punditry, Senko’s dad became more obsessed. He started sleeping in another room, leaving his wife in their bedroom, so he could watch Fox News all night.

Using her dad as an entertaining example, Senko pulls back the curtain to expose the tools and tricks of the wizards behind the right-wing media revolution. And in discovering what happened to him, Senko reveals the all-too-chilling bigger picture of what’s happening behind-the-scenes to influence our national discourse.

Thus, it come to be that some voters could be fooled again and again by being persuaded to vote Republican out of rage against “Those People,” and yet ignored after the election while the party pursued its true, plutocrat-friendly priorities.

The film came to be made because Senko had the presence of mind to document it all with a camera. She began chronicling her father’s rants and antagonistic emails. They became so aggressive his own wife learned to stop talking politics at home. (Years later Senko’s mother slyly deprogrammed the remote controls, weaning her husband off of Fox News.) While actor Matthew Modine (who produced with Adam Rackoff) narrates much of the film. The clip above shows how Senko frequently turns the camera on herself and interviewed fellow exasperated family members to try to understand what happened.

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