RIGGED Wins Best Original Music Recognition at the San Diego Movie Awards

RIGGED Shows How Leading Schools Are Challenging the Long-Accepted Wealthist Value System in US Higher Education that Exacerbates the Social and Economic Divide, Weakens Public Trust in Our Institutions, and Threatens Our National Stability

PORTLAND, Ore.--()--RIGGED has been awarded Honorable Mention – Best Original Music by the San Diego Movie Awards, the independent festival that honors films and filmmakers across the globe, recognizing each type of artist involved in the filmmaking process.

This award follows RIGGED’s recent win for Best Short Documentary at the Septimius Awards held in Amsterdam earlier this year.

RIGGED’s recognition in the Best Original Music category is for Music Composer Garrett Wolfston, a professional music and film score composer whose original compositions are featured throughout the documentary.

“Thanks to the San Diego Movie Awards for their recognition of the RIGGED musical score,” said Mr. Wolfston. “It was a pleasure to work on the film with an incredibly talented team, and an honor to add life to the story through music. I'm deeply appreciative of all my co-creators on this film and their desire to highlight the great universities that are working hard to reverse declining economic opportunity in America.

Since its premiere in 2021, RIGGED has been earning official selections at major film festivals including the Toronto Film Magazine Festival; the Montreal Independent Film Festival; the New Vision International Film Festival; The Direct Monthly Online Film Festival; The Monthly Film Festival; the Toronto Documentary Feature and Short Film Festival; the Bronx Social Justice Matters Film Festival; and the Mindfield Film Festival.

RIGGED explains how the long prevailing Wealthist value system in U.S. higher education restricts opportunity and upward mobility for our citizens and thus undermines U.S. democracy. RIGGED builds on the historical premise that growing economic imbalance ultimately leads to social unrest, political upheaval, and war. Through interviews with authors, historians, educators, and students, RIGGED shows how the widely accepted but craven chase for wealth and “prestige” in U.S. education constitutes a risk factor for triggering these historic consequences. RIGGED includes compelling footage of innovative and courageous educators who are seeking to replace the current ethos with a value system that meets genuinely capable, motivated students and advances them regardless of their economic background — a movement that could transform colleges and universities into real engines for education and social mobility.

RIGGED recalls the origins of the American Dream when the linchpin of economic opportunity was access to land. Following passage of the Homestead Act in 1862, the federal government doled out over 10 percent of the land mass of this country to individual citizens. While the outcome for settlers was far from guaranteed, the chance for individual economic advancement was undeniably real. Although the dark side of the settling of the U.S. West was the federal government’s forcible seizure of native lands, there is no question the Homestead Act provided economic opportunity for the enfranchised citizens of the time. This vast federal giveaway of land — what was then the fundamental element of economic opportunity — established the U.S. as the “land of opportunity” and built deep national loyalty and unity among the citizenry.

RIGGED points out that while land ownership remains a symbol of economic power today, we are long past the era in which the fundamental currency for economic opportunity is access to land. As the film explains, not only are we long past the Agrarian Age, we have also raced past the Industrial Age and the Knowledge Age into a new Learning Age. In this new Learning Age, where the pace of change is not only fast but accelerating, the fundamental basis for economic opportunity is no longer access to land, access to factories, or even access to knowledge. It is access to the full and formal development of learning skills, critical thought, and innovation — i.e., the elements for economic opportunity that hard-working students acquire today through any great modern university. RIGGED argues that if these modern elements of opportunity can be made broadly and freely available to all ambitious citizens regardless of their economic background, we can write the new and most important chapter in the story of the American Dream.

As to the difficulty in achieving this, Jim Wolfston, Executive Producer and narrator of RIGGED, offers a thought experiment:

“Imagine that following the nation’s founding during the Agrarian Age, our nation’s land mass comprised 3,000 feudal estates, each run by a board of trustees comprising wealthy notables. Each citizen who desired to develop a parcel of land within one of those estates would fill out an application, provide credentials and letters of recommendation, and take tests whose scores correlated most closely with whether that citizen already came from a wealthy family. Further, for the vast majority of the citizens lucky enough to be admitted to work the land on an estate, each would pay the estate’s tuition by taking on huge, oppressive debt obligations that would follow them for years into their productive careers.”

Given that 3,000 four-year higher education institutions largely control the modern currency for economic opportunity in this country today, you can see by parallel the crippling effect this system is imposing on U.S. social mobility. The paradox is that the people with the most power to break this system and overhaul it are the ones who have successfully risen through it and are thus the most naturally inclined to defend and preserve it. Yet because our higher education system inspires the greatest form of critical thought — the power to question one’s own ideas — RIGGED suggests there’s a good chance that more and more of today’s leaders in U.S. higher education will step up to challenge the Wealthist value system, despite the fact that that system provided the context for their own journey to personal success.

The release of RIGGED comes at a time when 70 percent of the students who are admitted to U.S. colleges and universities and 90 percent of their graduates are from above the median income. “Higher Education is the most important asset in the Learning Age,” says Wolfston. “If we can distribute this vital asset across the economic spectrum, we can optimize our nation’s human capital development, prepare the next generation for citizenship, and ensure social and economic opportunity. Most importantly, by rejecting the current trend toward on-campus economic homogeneity, higher education institutions can offer their students the chance to encounter a more challenging mix of people with diverse ideas, perspectives, and backgrounds. Collisions with the unexpected and unfamiliar are what best sharpen and prepare innovative minds. Thus, economic inclusion not only promotes social justice and equality of opportunity, it’s also an optimizing strategy for educating tomorrow’s innovators.”

Watch the RIGGED trailer, full-length film, and reviews here.