Robert Shetterly's Odyssey to Defend Our Democratic Ideals
Chronicles the lives of Americans fighting for peace, racial equity, environmental justice and indigenous rights through the eyes of Robert Shetterly, a long time activist and artist.
Directed by Richard Kane
Produced by Richard Kane, Melody Lewis-Kane
Directors of Photography, Richard Kane, Bob Elfstrom
Writer: Judith Dwan Hallett
Editor: Richard Kane
Executive Producers: John Eraklis, Eric L. Sass
[Note: Community screenings of TRUTH TELLERS can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"I was moved to tears...It is rich, poignant and absolutely necessary." Prof. Lynn Frederiksen, Clark Univ.
What defines a great American? For artist/activist Robert Shetterly, it's a citizen who courageously confronts issues of social, environmental and economic fairness. Shetterly has painted 270 portraits of such Americans, past and present, with a quote inscribed into the dark background. These "Americans Who Tell the Truth" have been exhibited throughout the United States for almost two decades.
TRUTH TELLERS is both a story of Shetterly's art and activism and a history lesson in what it means to be a citizen of a democracy. In bringing Shetterly's message to a wide audience, TRUTH TELLERS aims to spark a national conversation on truth telling.
Shetterly's subjects include contemporary activists for racial and indigenous justice Zyahna Bryant, Reggie Harris, Maulian Dana, Sherri Mitchell, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, and climate activists Bill McKibben, Kelsey Juliana, and Bill Bigelow. Shetterly's portraits place them in the context of our great civil rights leaders John Lewis, Frederick Douglass, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bayard Rustin, Sojourner Truth and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. .
Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2023
Copyright Date: 2021
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-91-7
"Our students need to know that U.S. history is filled with individuals who joined and built social movements to make the world more just. Truth Tellers offers an inspiring look at some of these activists and helps young people recognize that people make history - and they can, too."
Deborah Menkart, Executive Director, Teaching for Change, Co-Director, Zinn Education Project
"I am an ardent fan of Robert's work and of the man himself. He is the Diogenes of our time, searching for truth in the work of his subjects. He has become an invaluable chronicler of 2lst century America... Congratulations with this important film."
Bill Moyers, American journalist and political commentator
"In this inspirational film, we are introduced to the captivating artistry and brilliant story-telling talent of Rob Shetterly. By focusing on the environmental and the civil rights crusaders whom Shetterly has painted for his Americans Who Tell the Truth portrait series, Truth Tellers brilliantly lifts our attention to both well-known and uncelebrated heroes. At a time when our planet is in peril because of unsustainable development and our own democracy is threatened by dishonest leaders who sow hatred, it is joyful to meet an artist and his subjects whose courage, sacrifice, and compassion are powerful antidotes to what ails America."
Louis Clark, Executive Director and CEO, Government Accountability Project
"This is a fine, moving film about the grave problems that face us, about the activists working on them, and about an unusual artist using his skills to celebrate those men and women. I hope it will be widely seen in classrooms and community gatherings."
Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost, To End All Wars, Bury the Chains, and Spain in Our Hearts
"Truth Tellers follows down-to-earth activist-artist Robert Shetterly as he discovers and depicts scores of Americans, famous and unknown, who fight for this culture's highest ideals. This flowing, timely work of art allows viewers of all ages to meet and learn from an array of inspiring people, past and present, who have put words into action in our country's long struggle for racial and environmental justice. Leave it to Bullfrog Films to provide such a well-crafted, uplifting documentary."
Peter H. Wood, Emeritus Professor of History, Duke University, Author, Black Majority, Co-author, Created Equal: A History of the United States
"Inspiring...Artist Robert Shetterly sees himself as an artist and an activist and demonstrates how the two terms are united in a work of art. By painting movers and shakers of equity and reform, he becomes them. With each brush stroke comes a new detail or insight. By the time we see Shetterly stunningly surrounded by his 250 portraits, we appreciate his central place in the gallery of courage, struggle, and promise he so beautifully portrays."
Jessica Hoffmann Davis, EdD, former Chair and Founding Director, Arts in Education Program, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Author, Why Our Schools Need the Arts
"Truth Tellers lifts up the powerful and positive stories of courageous individuals, past and present, many unknown to the wider public. By artfully chronicling painter Rob Shetterly's craft and storytelling, we meet inspiring people who embrace the ideals of this country and are working to build a more perfect union. This documentary will stir curiosity, for students and elders alike, inviting all to learn new chapters of history and be part of shaping the future."
Chuck Collins, Director, Program on Inequality and the Common Good, Institute for Policy Studies, Author, Altar to an Erupting Sun
"The portraits are profiles in courage that celebrate the power of the individual in service of the common good. There is a sense of urgency informed by optimism in the film."
Edgar Allen Beem, The Portland Phoenix
"A powerful message...Timely...When truth is in grave danger, it's heartening to see the faces and read the brief biographies of people who worked hard to advance it and took risks in its service...Shetterly's portraits suggest we live in a world where ordinary people are capable of courageously helping other ordinary people find truth for ourselves."
Bill Nichols, Valley News
"Truth Tellers is a moving and hopeful exploration of the motivations and the struggle behind artist Robert Shetterly's fantastic portraits of Americans Who Tell the Truth. Shetterly is both an everyman humbled by the courage of those whose portraits he so lovingly paints, and a hero himself. He uses his art to push back the feelings of helplessness and despair we all can feel when faced with the scale of injustice in the world. Shetterly is also a teacher, and this film teaches the story he wants us to learn: that like him, we all can 'do something' to confront injustice. The next portrait Shetterly should paint is his own."
Dr. Lorraine C. Minnite, Associate Professor, Public Policy and Administration, Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey, Author, The Myth of Voter Fraud
"Encourage[s] examination of demo
DVDs include public performance rights.
SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection
Excellent website devoted to Robert Shetterly's ongoing Americans Who Tell The Truth project. Check it out.
Awards and Festivals
Audience Award for Best Film, Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival
Camden International Film Festival
Independent Film Festival Boston
Virginia Film Festival
Harlem International Film Festival
Martha's Vineyard Film Festival
Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
Global Peace Film Festival
North Carolina Film Festival
Mystic Film Festival
Full Bloom Film Festival
Borrego Springs Film Festival
Citizenship and Civics
Labor and Work Issues
Race and Racism
War and Peace
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cratic ideals, what it means to be equal, and how justice is defined from different perspectives. Ideal for history and social studies classes, with additional opportunities around art techniques and graphic design."
Maggie Knapp, School Library Journal