ACORN and the Firestorm

ACORN and the Firestorm

About the Film

For 40 years, the controversial community organizing group ACORN sought to empower marginalized communities. Its critics, though, believed ACORN exemplified everything wrong with liberal ideals, promoting government waste and ineffective activism. These competing perceptions exploded on the national stage in 2009, just as Barack Obama became president. Fueled by a YouTube video made by undercover journalists, ACORN’s very existence would be challenged. ACORN and the Firestorm goes beyond the 24-hour news cycle and cuts to the heart of the great political divide.  

The film unfolds through the perspectives of Hannah Giles and Bertha Lewis, two women on opposite sides of the political spectrum, as well as through the eyes of ACORN staff, to tell the story of a polarizing media frenzy that set the tone for elections to come. MORE

The Filmmakers

Reuben Atlas is an award-winning New York-based producer, director, and former lawyer. His first film, the feature music documentary, Brothers Hypnotic, premiered at the SXSW Film Festival. A co-production with ITVS and NTR, the film broadcast internationally, premiered on Independent Lens on PBS, and is distributed by Factory 25. He recently co-directed with Jerry Rothwell the Netflix and Arte-funded wine fraud documentary, Sour Grapes, which premiered at Hotdocs and is distributed by Dogwoof and Gravitas. Previously, he worked at a maximum-security prison, a music law firm, and at Legal Aid.

Sam Pollard has made over 50 films, including the Academy Award®-nominated documentary Four Little Girls, with Spike Lee, as well as HBO’s When the Levees Broke. He recently edited Alex Gibney’s Sinatra: All or Nothing for HBO and directed Slavery by Another Name for PBS. His 40 years of filmmaking credits as a producer, director, and editor also include the seminal civil rights series Eyes on the Prize. LESS

Film Credits

Produced and Directed by
Reuben Atlas
Sam Pollard

Edited by
Francisco Bello, Paul Greenhouse, and Martha Shane

Executive Producer for Pandora Film Center
Bonnie Friedman

Executive Producers
Sally Jo Fifer
Lois Vossen

Executive Producer for NBPC
Leslie Fields Cruz

Supervising Producer for ITVS
Shana Swanson

Inspired by
Seeds of Change: The Story of ACORN, America’s Most Controversial Community Organization by John Atlas

Spencer Chumbley
Naiti Gamez
Natalie Kingston
Frank Larson

Additional Cinematographers
Reuben Atlas
Tony Azios
Nikki Bramley
Frank Caloiero
Sharif El Neklawy
Tim Gillis
Ranu Gosh
Jeffrey Kim
Brooks Ludwick
Sean Mattison
Matt McClain
Gabriel Molton
Mark Moormann
Sean Porter
Sam Price-Waldman
Kristopher Rutherford
Danny Vecchione
Joe Victorine
Andy Young
Andrei Zakow

Score and Original Music Composed by
Khari Mateen

Motion/Graphic Designer
Brandon Sugiyama

Consulting Producers
John Atlas
Jed Rothstein

Associate Producers
Ian Kibbe
Daphne McWilliams
Jamin Mendelsohn
Justin Nickels

Archival Researchers
Madeline Court
Michael Dolan
Sheila Maniar
Ayanna Saulsberry

Archival Consultants
Rosemary Rotondi
Amy Schewel

Sound Mixers
Daniel Brooks
Chat Gunter
George Ingmire
Fiona McBain
Len Schmitz
David Schumacher

Additional Sound Mixers
Chris Camiglia
Dwight Chalmers
Kayla Croft
G. John Garrett
David Gerard
Alex Herrara
Catherine Hood
Brian James
Jacob Kenz
James Schuck
Tayman Strahorn
Patrick Tillman

Assistant Editors
Rachel Nicole Lambert
Hajer Salem
Jordan Smedburg
Madeline Smith
Jessica Windt
Production Assistants
Christina Antonakos-Wallace
Isabel Bethencourt
Nick Cordary
Brian De LaGarza
Amberly Ellis
Jared Hillard
Janet Marin
Samuel Simcox
Jamie Striby
Will Thompson
Laura X Moya
Online Editor
Ken Sirulnik

Assistant Online Editor
Jordan Thompson-DeSon

Supervising Sound Editor and Re-Recording Mixer
Matthew Polis

Sound FX Editor
Tristan Baylis

Outreach Consultant
Stephanie Bleyer

Momentous Insurance Brokerage

Legal Services
Fernando Ramirez, Esq.

Archival Materials Provided by
ABC News VideoSource
AP Images
Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN)
Steve Bachmann
Valerie Coffin
Florida WESH TV
Getty Images
Harry Hanbury
Historic Films
Kevin Keating
Lech Kowalski and Odile Allard
Joshua Lutz/Redux
NBCUniversal Archives
Rick Reinhard
Amy Rice and Alicia Sans
Ernest R. Savage III
Wisconsin Historical Society


“Hard Living” * “We Tell Our Sides” * “Riverside” * “Acorn Gone” * “Talking to Her” * “Fam” * “Gmoms” * “The War is On” * “Stairways” * “The Bishop Mary” * “Battleground Votes” * “Acorn Gang” * “Money Woahs” * “Breit Words” * “Firebirth” * “Don’t Play Carlos” * “Mary”
Written and Performed by Khari Mateen

“This Land is Your Land”
Written By Woody Guthrie
Performed by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Courtesy of Daptone Records

Special Thanks
Dorothy Amadi
Bill Bartlett
Joe Basel
Kent Bassett
Dave Beckwith
Brendan Belair
Seth Borgos
Denise Brown-Hylton
Phillip Bump
Nick Corrao
Gigi Cunha
Marshall Curry
Maryellen Deckard
Bruce Dorpalen
Peter Dreier
Lisa Durden
Elizabeth Farkas
Sam Freedman
Tomasz Gubernat
Amy Halpin
Alexandra Hannibal
Ryan Harrington
Mama Hill
Diane and Eric Von Hoffman
Ines Hofmann-Kanna
Richard Insley
Keith Kelleher
Jen Kern
Shaka King
Mitch Klein
Craig Livingston
Marcia Marley
Kelly and Joseph McDonald
Andrew Mer
Caroline Minier
Neil Mullin
Ben Nabors
Wendy Neu
Sandy Newman
Steve Nislick
Bryce Norbits
Shelley Oto
Matthew Phelan
Edward Pinto
Zach Polett
Hal Rabner
Peter Rappoport
Ann Rea
Sandy and David Reynolds
Jose Rodriguez
Phyllis Rosenblum
Dr. Raymond H. Rufen-Blanchette
Robert Russo
Neal Sealy
Marc Seidan
Richard and Kim Seltzer
Joel Shain
Kay Shaw
Jay and Geri Sher
Jonathan Skurnik
Nancy Erika Smith
Jack Spear
Kristan Sprague
Fran Streich
Rev. Gloria Swieringa
Maxim Thorne
Lez Trujillo
Matthew Vadum
Jonathan Westin
Kevin Whelan
Jeremiah Zagar

In memory of John Kest

Funding Provided By
Bruce Ratner Family Fund
IDA Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund
Hugo Neu Corporation
Gucci Tribeca Film Institute Documentary Fund
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program

ACORN and the Firestorm is a co-production of Pandora Educational Film Center and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), in association with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), and with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

ACORN and the Firestorm is produced by Pandora Educational Film Center, Inc. which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2017 Pandora Educational Film Center. All Rights Reserved.

Did you follow the ACORN political debate when it happened? Does getting to know the real people behind the ACORN media frenzy change your opinion about it? Do you trust the media to give you the full story? Are you wary of "fake news" when you try to track current events?


  • Montclair Film Festival
    New Jersey Films Competition American Truth Seeker Award


Please review our comment guidelines.
Did you follow the ACORN political debate when it happened? Does getting to know the real people behind the ACORN media frenzy change your opinion about it? Do you trust the media to give you the full story? Are you wary of "fake news" when you try to track current events?