Today’s media landscape seems to be littered with all sorts of political commentators and personalities left and right. The saturation is immense and almost seems impenetrable for someone who has their own opinion to be heard.
But those familiar with Cenk Uygur know that sometimes you can make a lot of noise and people will eventually listen.
Mad as Hell is best described as an unlikely version of the American dream. The film follows Cenk Uygur’s transition from being an unknown talk show host on local public access TV to his role as a national host for MSNBC. All the while he and his dedicated team maintain their independent online news commentary show, The Young Turks, which has currently amassed well over one billion views on YouTube. Conversations with Cenk and his colleges at The Young Turks illuminate the struggles of finding your voice among the seemingly vapid space of media.
Perhaps most fascinating about Mad as Hell is that it gives an intimate look into the changing media landscape birthed by the internet and the public’s desire for new voices. The film beautifully follows Cenk and his loyal team, with their uncensored brand of journalism, navigating the traditional world of news while simultaneously finding themselves at the forefront of a burgeoning new media. Not only is this a personal story about Cenk Uygur, its also a glimpse into an ongoing media and information revolution from an original and unknowing pioneer.
Cenk’s story is also compelling. He is first introduced as a brash and loud law student who is more than eager to share his opinions with others. Throughout the rest of the film, his hubris turns into a story of David versus Goliath. As an audience, you can understand how he as a person changed throughout his experiences from a in-your-face nobody public access talk show host to a nationally televised political commentator struggling to maintain his principles. While Cenk rails against the problems of the establishment, he experiences what it is like to finally become a part of that establishment, and the consequences of either siding with it or taking the road less traveled.
Mad as Hell does a wonderful job of painting the zeitgeist of mainstream media as a controlling institution without feeling conspiratorial. It is a cautionary tale for those who jump in principles first: principles don’t always make money or the type of fame you desire. In Cenk’s case, his longtime dream of being on television is not as important as his principles. He has the self-awareness to realize that the course he has been on is one that is taking him through a unique media revolution.
All in all, the film is entertaining and informative. Certainly there are those who are not a fan of Cenk’s politics or practice. His arrogance may bother some, but his story should not. Mad as Hell manages to celebrates an individual who has managed to emerge from the establishment with his principles intact in an honest way.
Mad as Hell will screen on February 6 in Los Angeles and New York City at the Laemmle Music Hall and Cinema Village, respectively. The film is also available through several major video on demand services. For more information, you can visit the film’s website.