Inspiring and Educating Through Film

Vt. Bernie Buzz Profile: Sam Bellavance, 17

Vt. Bernie Buzz


Sam Bellavance, a 17-year-old South Burlington High School senior, interviewed Sen. Bernie Sanders for a 20-minute documentary about campaign finance reform and institutionalized corruption in our nation's political system for his "Lights, Camera, Activism" class.  Sam's first question: When you think of corruption in American politics, what comes to mind?

The purpose of the class, Sam said, was to "get students involved in their communities by creating documentaries about issues they care about."

Sam decided he was going to focus on campaign finance reform and the detrimental role big money plays in American politics. "I just feel that it's a really important issue in America," Sam said. "Looking around in media today, it's not a well-covered subject and I wanted to see what else I could do to get the word out. And I think a documentary is a great way."

The senator praised Sam's preparation, research and questions.

"If you are concerned about any of those issues - the economy, health care, the environment, global warming, education - you must be concerned about the issue that Sam asked," Sanders said during the documentary interview. "And that is the issue of campaign finances and the need for campaign finance reform."

"Unless we create a campaign finance mechanism that people of modest income can get elected, that people who are prepared to stand up and take on big-money interests can get elected, we are going to have a government that works for the wealthy and the powerful and not for ordinary Americans," Sanders said.

In addition to interviewing Sanders, who introduced a constitutional amendment to reverse the damage caused by the Supreme Court's misguided Citizens United ruling that unleashed waves of corporate cash into the political process, Sam plans on speaking with a wide range of Vermonters to see what they think about this crucial issue.

"One of the most important issues is how unknown this issue is," Sam said of the role of money in American politics. "What is the average Vermonter thinking about this issue?"

Sam said one of his primary goals is to convince the average Vermonter that they should become engaged on this issue. "They should care because if the government is more focused and dependent on large-moneyed interests that means that they are less focus on their constituents, which is what government is supposed to be about."

The documentary, which is slated to be complete by the end of this school year, will also include an interview with Ben & Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield, who supports Sanders' Saving American Democracy amendment, Sam said, adding he is also in the process of lining up an interview with Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.

"I've always been a really strong fan of documentaries. I just like the way you can inspire someone with a piece of film," Sam said.

Watch: Sneak-preview of Sam's documentary