An Empire of Reason

Directed by Muffie Meyer and Ellen Hovde

58 minutes / Color
Release: 1998
Copyright: 1988

What would it have been like if television had covered the ratification process of the U.S. Constitution?

Such is the premise of AN EMPIRE OF REASON, an imaginative look back at that process which ultimately gave birth of the United States of America.

Walter Cronkite appears as the anchorperson of CTN (Contintental Television Network) nightly news. In the TV news style of the late twentieth century, he reports the vociferous battle between the Federalists and anti-Federalists - to ratify the Constitution and become the United States, or to not ratify and remain affiliated, but autonomous states.

The debate rages on. Alexander Hamilton, one of the authors of the Constitution, and anti-Federalist Melancton Smith duke it out on William F. Buckley Jr.'s Firing Line. Heated arguments on the necessity of a Bill of Rights take place on the MacNeil-Lehrer Report and The Donohue Show.

Interspersed with the larger political and constitutional debates are lively local news items, such as New York Mayor Ed Koch's response to citizen demands for a trash collection alternative to the garbage-eating pigs roaming the city's streets.

Hovde explains that they chose this contemporary format because "The way history is presented is cut-and-dried. It has nothing to do with us. It's people in period costume." AN EMPIRE OF REASON seeks to elucidate the issues so vital to that time - the benefits of a unified nation vs. the fear of a big, distant government; the pros and cons of a single currency, federal income tax, and a Bill of Rights - in such a way as to reveal the continued presence of these issues in contemporary American political discourse. What is at stake is nothing less than the still ongoing debate over the meaning of the word "democracy."

"A super way to learn about our history!"—Marvin Kitman, Newsday

"Wonderful!"—Adjunct Professor of Law R. B. Bernstein. New York Law School

"Teaches as it entertains... so that a wide range of ages and educational levels can learn from it."—The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

"You'll never have more fun learning!"—Daily News

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Select Accolades

  • 1989 Emmy Award
  • 1989 Cine Gold Eagle
  • Best of Festival, 1989 Athens Film Festival.
  • Gold Camera, 1989 U.S. Film Festival.


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