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Locally produced film highlighting rise, fall of Mena’s Commonwealth College to air on AETN Aug. 1

CONWAY, Ark. (AETN) — “Southern Utopia: The Rise and Fall of Commonwealth College,” a film exploring the creation and destruction of a small socialist college in Mena, will air on the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) Wednesday, Aug. 1, at 6:30 p.m.

Opened in the 1920s in the most unlikely of places, Commonwealth College created uproar in the small rural community of Mena. Spawning reactionary backlash, the overt, left-wing politics of the socialist labor college ultimately alienated its enemies on the political right and its supporters on the political left. 

“Southern Utopia” focuses on the dangers of the power and destructiveness of ideological extremism on both ends of the political spectrum in its examination of the collapse of this experimental school. The rise and fall of Commonwealth College has been said to reflect, in many respects, the war between progressive and conservative cultures that have existed in the U.S. since the Great Depression.  

The film was produced, directed and narrated by Carey Byars, a former assistant professor of film and broadcasting at John Brown University and Arkansas State University (ASU). “Southern Utopia” is supported in part by the University of Arkansas and was created as a thesis project for National University in San Diego, Calif.

AETN.org > Engage > Pressroom > Locally produced film highlighting rise, fall of Mena’s Commonwealth College to air on AETN Aug. 1