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Swing State: The Road to Friendship?

Directed by Bryan Oldenburg
Documentary Feature
USA | 102 min | 2021

America, in general, and Wisconsin, in particular, have seen politics drift to alarming extremes, with cries from one side of “Neo-Fascism,” and cries of “Neo-Marxism” from the other. With the heart seemingly growing cold across the country (perpetuating a vicious cycle of fake news, vile accusations and outright violence), one wonders if the road to friendship is an idealistic concept of a Mayberry long gone. In this sequel to SWING STATE, we literally hit the road to Friendship (a small village in the center of America’s Dairyland), to see if old fashioned neighborliness is still attainable in this deeply fractured nation. We visit a handful of other places along the way (as we did in Part 1 of the Series), including Janesville, Beloit, Mauston and Milwaukee. We meet some outliers, if you will, who counter the philosophy that one side needs to crush the other (as was the case in the first Civil War), and actually strive for meaningful discussion, peace and reconciliation. Sooner or later, we will have to come back together again, in order for America to survive as we know it. In SWING STATE, The Road To Friendship, we witness some authentic attempts at reaching that long-forgotten concept called The Brotherhood of Man.

I’ve lived in the Beloit area all my life and attended Beloit College in the mid-80s (thus making me a “Townie/Gownie,” as the campus affectionately tagged such people). I’ve been interested in politics since my late teenage years, especially the political scene in Chicago (to my South) and Madison (to the North). Election 2016 was really a politico’s dream, with a couple of polarizing candidates, who helped prove, once again, that America’s Dairyland plays an enormous role as a swing state. Interestingly enough, Wisconsin was decided by a razor-thin 22,000 votes—the same amount Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, got. I found it rather odd that Hillary Clinton decided not to visit Wisconsin once during the primaries, and I asked citizens to comment on this fact during interviews.

I started my journey at The Women’s March in Madison, where the atmosphere was predictably electric. The cast of characters (as with all the places in my film) was ideal for documentary filmmaking, both for their passion and intelligence. My goal was to strike a balance between left and right leaning views, as I continued through Beloit, Baraboo, Kenosha, Fond du Lac and Ripon (in the first film) to Janesville, Mauston, Friendship and Milwaukee (in the second). Both by way of research and travel, I discovered many things about a place I thought I knew much better. I hope you, too, learn a lot about my home state, as you listen to folks giving their take on the most interesting election of my lifetime. With the Democrats bringing their convention to Milwaukee in 2020, the interest can only continue to grow, and all eyes will be set on Wisconsin as one of a handful of important swing states.

Swing State | The Road To Friendship, Bryan Oldenburg, Director

Bryan Oldenburg, Director | Swing StateBryan Oldenburg

Bryan Oldenburg began Radio Broadcasting right out of Beloit College, then entered the world of Television Commercials about ten years after that. His latest foray into Documentary Filmmaking started roughly 8 years ago with THE MINDSET MOVIE, which told the story of The Beloit College Mindset List (a chronicle of Freshman thinking throughout the decades). In SWING STATE, he teams up with veteran cinematographer, Dan Klopp, of both Milwaukee and Madison notoriety, plus welcomes in master musician, Ryan Thomas Becker, who won “Best Guitarist in Texas” a few years ago (no small accomplishment). Award-winning Associate Producer, Jim Peterson (THE YUPPIE, DARKWING DUCK, KIM POSSIBLE, etc.) comes onboard yet again to offer his brilliant insights in SWING STATE— an endeavor that is likely to become a 3-Part series, once the Democrats bring their convention to Milwaukee.

Swing State Movie Poster | Bryan Oldenburg, Director2019 BIFF Alum

Returning BIFF Filmmaker
Bryan Oldenburg

Bryan’s first BIFF screening was the prequel edition to this season’s film by the same name. That first film, Swing State – Election 2016 and 2020 to come  generated strong audience attendance. This season’s film continues the theme where the 2019 film leaves off.

In the first film, Bryan had travelled to Beloit, Baraboo, Madison, Fond du Lac and Ripon, and continues the journey by hitting five more communities (including Wisconsin’s largest, Milwaukee) in the sequel. He asks this year’s show-goers to consider whether a third part (filmed in Northern Wisconsin) would be an interesting prospect for them or not. Many people today seem burned out with increasingly hyper-polarized politics, but future Wisconsinites might find a three-part series more exhaustive and helpful for historical reflection.

Film Information

Director: Bryan Oldenburg
Country: USA
Year: 2021
Language: English
Runtime: 102 min.
Rated: PG


Producer: Jim Peterson
Writer: Bryan Oldenburg
Cinematography: Dan Klopp
Music: Ryan Thomas Becker

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BIFF | Beloit International Film Festival