Without the exterior shots of Madison Square Garden, viewers of Marshall Curry’s A Night at the Garden might think they’re watching a Hitler rally. But this is a chilling collation of archival film clips from the “Pro-American Rally” held in New York City on Feb. 20, 1939. Boys in brown shirts carry American flags through the crowd and onto the stage, taking their place beneath a 50-foot painting of George Washington flanked by deconstructed American flags and swastikas. The eerie music gives way to organizer Fritz Kuhn, a Hitler acolyte, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. “We’d like to think that when Nazism rose up, all Americans were instantly appalled,” Curry says. His film strips us of that comforting illusion.
As a state with a scarce population but ample natural resources, Montana has a history of being exploited by shady corporate interests. And in the wake of corrupt copper barons buying legislative seats, the citizens of the state built many safeguards against corporate influence on elections, including the strictest campaign finance laws in all of America. But 100 years after these laws were passed, the U.S. Supreme Court made its Citizens United decision, which opened up avenues for corporations to pour untraceable sums of money into elections. Dark Money follows both the chilling effects of Citizens United on Montana’s elections, and the way the state is fighting those effects — with its own laws, its small-but-mighty regulatory bodies and its tenacious investigative journalists.