Local Control

Local Control: Karl Hess in the World of Ideas

2018 TRT: 60min

Brief Synopsis:

A carefully woven essay and biopic that questions the political spectrum as we know it and considers the meaning of political rhetoric as it moves through different bodies.

Trailer (the full video is below):


Local Control is an experimental documentary about the political spectrum.

It has been said repeatedly that “All Politics Are Local” but what does the impulse towards controlling your own life at the local level mean to people as diverse as Jeffersonian Yeoman, Climate Change activists, Fair food advocates, Transgender anarchists and Republican speechwriters? Is local on the scale of the body, the neighborhood, or the nation?

Local Control uses the story of writer Karl Hess to propose a field of interaction between Ayn Rand, Emma Goldman, Rush Limbaugh, Abby Hoffman, Studs Terkel, Benito Mussolini, Ken Kesey, Robert Heinlein, Bob Dylan and The Black Panther Party. A former corporate consultant and speechwriter for Barry Goldwater, Karl Hess later joined the ranks of Students for a Democratic Society. He wrote speeches for New Left groups of the 1960s before beginning to advocate for urban agriculture and community technology, and later becoming a founding figure amongst Libertarians and survivalists. Throughout it all he promoted ideas of self-sufficiency and localism.

Traveling from Washington DC to Los Angeles and across over 50 years, this video essay introduces Hess’ family and interviews with political authors Cindy Milstein, Charles Murray, Raj Patel and Rick Perlstein, and is also interspersed with clips from mainstream news outlets, online personalities and Hess devotees.

In a time where our map of ideas has been turned on its head, this mediation on individualism and collectivism considers conventional categories of Right and Left while introducing surprising new ones to help us to consider where we are now.

Full Video:

Featuring (In Order of Appearance):  

Emily Bunker, Theo Katsaounis, Darganot AKA cdcandy419 AKA TheCandiRose, Rick Perlstein, Karl Hess, Therese Hess, Narisara Murray, Charles Murray, Karl Hess IV, Raj Patel, Cindy Milstein, Don Meinhausen


Theo Katsaounis, Tim Kinsella and Todd Mattei


Valerie Keller


Daniel Tucker

Shot on location between July 2011 and May 2018 in:

Los Angeles, CA; Mineral Point, WI; Chicago, IL; Essex, NY; Brooklyn, NY; Baltimore, MD; Washington, DC; Burkittsville, MD; Louisville, KY; Philadelphia PA

Additional Video/Photo/Audio:

Robert Herbst and Ashley Hunt (Los Angeles), Dave Pabellon (Mineral Point), Alex Rauch (Chicago), Todd Tucker (Burkittsville)

Screenings of this work have been held at

  • Visual Studies Workshop [Rochester, NY]
  • Rhizome Microcinema [Washington DC]
  • Redemmas [Baltimore, MD]
  • Byline Festival [Pippingford Park, England]
  • Cine Pobre Film Festival [La Paz, BCS, Mexico] 
  • Galleries at Moore, Faculty Triennial [Philadelphia, PA]
  • Anthology Film Archives Newfilmmakers NY series, Screening of Local Control [New York City, NY]
  • Woodbine, Screening of Local Control [Queens, NY]
  • Nightengale Cinema, Screening of Local Control [Chicago, IL].