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A battle for the times

Sandy Gotham Meehan’s journey in filmmaking has taught her patience.

With her latest project, “Barney’s Wall: Portrait of a Game Changer,” she learned a lot about herself.

“This film began in early 2014,” she says. “I had no idea that it would take as long as it has. I could give a TEDx talk on 10 reasons why you are insane to produce an independent production.”

All kidding aside, Gotham Meehan is proud of the documentary, which will premiere at the Santa Fe Film Festival at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14.

The film probes the lasting political and cultural impact of Barney Rosset, radical Grove Press publisher, free-speech warrior and political activist, one of the most influential cultural impresarios of the last half of the 20th century.

Rosset’s fierce midcentury battles against literary censorship, government surveillance, racial bigotry and the Vietnam war blasted open America’s conservative culture and birthed the ’60s counter-culture rebellion, paving the way for today’s unfettered artistic expression.

Gothan Meehan says the film makes the case that Rosset’s unflagging battles against inequality and an intolerant culture make him a contemporary model for today’s political and cultural activists who seek to keep the country open and the First Amendment intact.

“Perhaps the closest equivalent today of Rosset’s feisty, abrasive, principled and visionary politics is Bernie Sanders,” she says.

Gotham Meehan had access to Rosset’s estate.

“Barney never threw anything out,” she says. “We had a lot of trouble finding the story arc. He was known for his publishing brilliance and his legal battles that he waged in the mid-1950s against government censorship.”

Gotham Meehan served as director alongside Williams Cole. It was produced by FoxHog Productions based out of New York City.

She worked with 415 pieces of archival material.

“Getting everything pared down was one of the most difficult things for this project,” she says. “We’ve been able to privately screen the film and the conversation it started is great. I wanted to premiere the film in Santa Fe because the city has a great reputation of being open and accepting. I think the counter-culture angle will resonate with the audiences there. It’s going to be amazing to be part of the community for the time that I’m there.”

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