Thursday, August 6, 2020
‘Waking the Sleeping Giant’ Follows Bernie Sanders, Other Progressives
Jon Erickson, Jacob Smith and Kathryn Goldman covered the Democracy Spring rally at the U.S. Capitol as they followed two of their characters’ march from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017


The 2016 Presidential Election reenergized many across the country as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and others attempted to build a 21st century progressive movement in the United States.

Bellevue City Council member Kathryn Goldman was among those sitting up and taking note. She and a longtime friend who used to serve as mayor of Golden, Colo., had already been talking about the idea of doing a film together. And the emergence of a fresh voice on the national scene seemed to play right into that.

The end product was “Wake the Sleeping Giant: The Making of a Political Revolution”—a film billed as “the story of the 2016 presidential race and the fight for civil rights, economic fairness and a democracy that works for everyone.”

The Democracy Spring rally.

And the citizens group Idahoans for a Brighter Future will host a free screening of it at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, at the Wood River High School Performing Arts Theatre at the Community Campus. Goldman will field questions following the film.

“We had started to notice a lot of interesting things happening across the country,” said Goldman. “Minimum wage ballot initiatives were passing in red states. A 700-page economics tome called “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” spent 22 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.  And people who called themselves socialists were winning elections.

“In addition, I was running some state legislative campaigns so I was on the ground talking to District 26 voters, and I was seeing a lot of frustration and anger.”

The film follows five individuals:

  • Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders from the time he began exploring a run through his appearance at the Democratic National Convention.
  • Sabrina Shrader, a West Virginia woman who is working to escape generational poverty and secure a seat in her state legislature to help her coal country family and community navigate the challenges of a failing rural economy
  • Jan Williams, a school bus driver with the Los Angeles Unified School District and a Black Lives Matter activist in Los Angeles, who is fighting against systemic police brutality and institutional racism
  • Elise Whitaker and Kai Newkirk, two millennial organizers leading peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins with Democracy Spring to confront the corrupting influence of money in politics.

The film also examines the fracturing political landscape in the United States and probes widespread discontent across the country, President Trump’s dramatic electoral victory and what it will take to reenergize the progressive movement.

The film won Best Feature Film in Thin Line 2017. It was also an official selection in the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver, B.C., the Gimli Film Festival in Manitoba, the St. Louis International Film Festival and the SouthSide Film Festival in Bethlehem Pa.

“ 'Waking the Sleeping Giant' is so important. It’s turning to the people on the ground. It is the good kind of reality TV,” said Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!

“Jacob Smith, Jon Erickson and Kathryn Goldman’s ambitious new film…points to a turbulent time—but also, perhaps, a singular moment of opportunity, if coalitions and alliances can unite sometimes disparate voices in a coherent public conversation to forge a mandate for effective change,” said Jay Craven of Vermont Public Radio.

Goldman produced the film with Jon Erickson, a professor at the University of Vermont who has produced award-winning documentary films on climate change, water, and energy, including five in national PBS distribution.

They produced it along with Jacob Smith, a former mayor and U.S. Senate staffer whose fiction short film “Chasing Rabbits” won the Audience Choice Award for Best Live Action Short at the Children’s Film Festival in Seattle.

“Everybody we feature in the film are doing valuable work,” said Goldman. “It’ all about all of us standing up, working together. What I hope viewers will come away with is inspiration to stay involved and continue to have ongoing discussions.”


Individuals or organizations can show the 93-minute film in their homes or auditoriums by going to The producers  also hope to get it into classrooms and on view-on-demand platforms.


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