The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Don't watch that – watch this!

By Wells Dunbar, July 8, 2005, News

Rubbernecking others' video rentals is a guilty pastime of Naked City. There's nothing more exhilarating than a couple picking up the latest Vin Diesel opus, declaring "he's such a good actor," or saying they heard Son of the Mask was "really good." But what if they were discussing a Howard Zinn lecture, the Patriot Act, or advertising's social and economic effects, instead of the gigaplex's latest drool-inducer?

Michael Polachek's Liberation Video ( was created to foster such discussion. "It's an online video rental service that specializes in alternative, progressive, political film," Polachek said. Members of the subscription service browse titles online, add films to their queue, receive them in the mail, and send them back in an enclosed, stamped envelope when finished.

"There were several different inspirations for this; one of the main ones were the house parties hosted by," Polachek said. After viewing documentaries like Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, attendees discussed what they just watched. "I thought it would be nice if there was a way for people to be able to do that on a regular basis. One of the things I'm trying to encourage is for people not only to rent these videos, but to invite people over to see them." Started three months ago, Liberation Video has a handful of subscribers and some 80 titles in its library, which includes categories like Globalization, Politics, and 9/11. September 11, 2001, and related events sparked a subgenre in political film, Polachek said. While acknowledging different levels of investigative quality in the films, "When you see 9/11 as the ultimate political justification for the war, it's important to get some of this information out there, and these opinions."

There was an explosion in documentaries that did well last year, but for every one that got a theatrical release, there are dozens of others that never made it to theatres, Polachek said. "Because the technology now has made it so easy and inexpensive to actually make a film," a lot of people are doing good, yet unrecognized, work, he said. That burgeoning technology is something Polachek hopes to further utilize in the future. "I'm hoping that as we grow a community and a customer base, that we can start distributing online, using file-sharing methods. … My ultimate dream is that at some point, we can develop a network of independent video journalists."

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