Small Screen Berkeley: ‘Treason’ and ‘The First Angry Man’

Shucking off those U.S. government chains and trying to create the perfect nation; and a reminder of a time when our ‘liberal’ state embraced the politics of the reactionary right.

Treason. Photo: Courtesy 1091 Pictures

If you’ve felt uncomfortable about the direction taken by the U.S. of A. over the last four years, an idea commonly associated with the far right may have intruded into your brain: secession! Secession, it seems, isn’t just for gun nuts and militia members anymore — now it’s also for pointy-headed liberals equally desperate to escape Trump’s tentacular grasp.

Writer-director Eric DePriester’s Treason (now streaming on Amazon) asks the question: what if we could shuck off those U.S. government chains and create the perfect nation, the ideal society, in our own backyard? Determined to find out, man of action Grant Wilson (Jeff LeBeau) has declared his remote southwestern ranch an independent country— and, naturally, put himself in charge.

To further deepen the illusion (or the reality), Kallipoly (named after Kallipolis, the ‘beautiful city’ of Plato’s ‘Republic’, and the namesake of Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula where over 50,000 Allied troops died during World War I), even has its own currency featuring — in place of the usual dead presidents — a photograph of San Francisco’s Emperor Norton. Unfortunately, the nearest bars and shops (inconveniently still located in the United States) won’t accept it as legal tender, despite Grant’s best efforts.

Kallipoly has three other citizens: Grant’s religious wife Candice (Dalia Vosylius), his loyal to a fault son Kyle (Colby Rummell), and his rebellious daughter Savannah (Emma Center). While Kyle trains to serve as the country’s armed forces and Savannah grudgingly provides the nation with media services, Candice plays the role of loyal housewife, cooking, cleaning and desperately trying to keep the peace between the men and women of this fractious fatherland.


Treason features some inspired dialogue (JFK assassination buffs will be tickled by a reference to the Texas Book Suppository) and one truly memorable set piece: a family game of ‘Risk’. As the four Kallipolians try to dominate each other with their kitchen table plastic armies, an aggravated Grant announces “if we don’t respect the rules, we won’t play.” Perhaps he should have considered the rules before cutting ties with the old country.

‘The First Angry Man’

For longtime Californians, Jason Cohn’s The First Angry Man (premiering on KQED-TV at 8 p.m. on October 16, 2020) provides a reminder of a time when our ‘liberal’ state embraced the politics of the reactionary right — and a time when, perhaps not coincidentally, white Californians were beginning to realize their status as the state’s ethnic majority was coming to an end.

Utah native Howard Jarvis moved to the Golden State in the 1930s, where he began running — unsuccessfully — for public office. After several failed campaigns, he turned his attention to the state’s referendum system, becoming a right-wing superstar whose hell-raising anti-tax speeches propelled Proposition 13 to ballot box victory in 1978. Prop. 13, of course, still limits property tax rates throughout the state — though this year’s Proposition 15 is an attempt to roll back its limitations on commercial property.

Jarvis’s ‘tell it like it is’ sermonizing and veiled racism dovetailed perfectly with the school busing issue that was also roiling the waters of late ’70s California. Indeed, The First Angry Man also features footage of the state’s first angry woman, desegregation opponent Bobbi Fiedler (now there’s someone I’d forgotten about!). Cohn’s film tells Jarvis’ story succinctly and effectively, tying the ‘taxpayer’s revolt’ he led (and which still operates as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association) to the Reagan Revolution, the Tea Party, and Trumpism.