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Death & Taxes

VARIETY /   Indie documaker Jeffrey F. Jackson sticks it to the IRS and the Feds in "Death & Taxes," a hard-hitting reinvestigation of the 1983 Gordon Kahl case, about which questions still linger. Jackson's unfazed, investigative reporting-style approach and inventive handling of familiar material make this a controversial item for fests and progressive webs. Non-U.S. viewers will also get a charge out of its conspiracy theme.
Docu's intriguingly non-linear structure starts with un-introed cross-cutting between recent footage of Kahl's exhumation, news footage of the 1983 shootout and interviews with relatives and friends. Though initially confusing for those not closely acquainted with the affair, Jackson's slow-burning approach yields dividends later as the mists clear and the pieces fall into place with a vengeance.
Through interviews and archive material, Jackson traces Kahl's background from North Dakota farmer-tumed-WWII hero, to disillusionment with Roosevelt and the postwar welfare program, to his unilateral opt-out from the country's social security system in 1968 and subsequent harrassment by the IRS.
As Kahl's opposition to the federal system became more vocal, encouraging people to start "township governments," the authorities slowly moved in, prompted by the area's new marshal. Final shootout and manhunt in summer 1983 ended at a remote Arkansas farmhouse, with a body claimed to be Kahl's burnt beyond recognition.
Though Jackson's sympathies for the maverick Kahl are never in doubt, he presents a persuasive armory of evidence, eyewitness reports and fundamental questions that support his cage-rattling approach (which even includes a sideswipe at Bill Clinton, then Arkansas governor)
Lack of captions identifying interviewees is initially annoying, but Jackson's technique of letting them identify themselves through what they say is ultimately involving. Visual style for these interviews is straight talking-head, though pointedly cut and never dull. Occasional use of music is flavorsome, underscoring the snowballing conspiracy atmosphere.
Docu includes a brief clip from the 1991 NBC telepic "In the Line of Duty: Manhunt in the Dakotas," in which Rod Steiger played Kahl.
Pic is the result of three years of videotaped interviews, subsequently transferred to film. Result on the big screen is OK but far from high-def quality.
At London Fest world preem, Jackson revealed he was still in dispute with the U.K.'s Channel 4, which provided some of the original coin but now wants pic recut in a more linear structure. Jackson currently plans U.S. release around the fiscally sensitive date of April 15. — Derek Elley
CHRONICLES MAGAZINE /   Gordon Kahl was a simple farmer who became famous for not filing income tax returns. Imprisoned and hounded by IRS agents who never did prove he owed any amount of money, Kahl and his son were involved in a shootout with police. The son is still serving a prison sentence, but the father was surrounded and shot in Arkansas by police officers who mutilated and burned his body. How did a decorated war veteran end up on the FBI's most-wanted list? The documentary Death & Taxes interviews Kahl's family and friends as well as police officers, sheriffs, and a delightful IRS spokesgirl who apparently thinks he had it coming. A friend lent me a copy of the film, and I was so impressed with it that we called and told the company that we wanted to advertise it in Chronicles (see the full-page advertisement on page 13). David Koresh was a kook, Randy Weaver was more than a little strange, but Gordon Kahl was the kind of American who made this country, and his death--and the media coverage that vilified him--are a national disgrace. Buy the film and show it to your neighbors. — Thomas Fleming
GUNS & AMMO /   A new video documentary, Death & Taxes, details a case of government murderously out of control that was briefly mentioned in the October 1994 Guns & Ammo article "The Ugly Truth About Gun Control." Death & Taxes is the story of Gordon Kahl, a North Dakota farmer and decorated World War II veteran, and his apparent death at the hands of federal agents. His son and another man are now serving life in prison, according to the producer, "not because they shot anyone, but because they refused to lay down their guns to a group of plain clothes federal agents who never identified themselves, except to threaten to blow their '@#$%*&' heads off." No amateur production, Death & Taxes is a high-quality, professionally executed, 113-minute documentary that has been screened at several major international film festivals, and now you can see it for yourself. VHS cassettes of Death & Taxes are now available for $29.95 plus $3 shipping and handling by calling (800) BURY-IRS. — Bill O'Brien
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Death & Taxes (DVD)
First time on DVD (113 min)
Death & Taxes (VHS)
This is a limited edition collector's VHS in the original unbroken packaging. (113 min)
Death & Taxes Miniseries (DVD)
Set of 6 DVD's comprising the complete uncut footage from the documentary film project. (783 min)
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