Election Day

I promised not to discuss politics on this site, and I won’t.

But I will say that the current climate of divisiveness in our system, the concept of holding votes hostage to blackmail for pork barrel items and the unabashed manic hyperbole being spewed out of people’s pieholes (as if it were fact) is all bordering on the absurd. It’s as if people don’t know what the words catastrophe, communism, socialism and freedom really mean. And certainly not the word privilege.

The subjects of the film Election Day do understand what privilege means. And it’s reaffirming to strip away the bullshit and the talking heads and the negative smear campaigns and the memorized talking points and take a good hard look at real people who understand how powerful four simple words can be: the right to vote.

I’m not tea-partying here. I’m just saying that sometimes you have to duck under all the flying crap and remind yourself what’s really important in life is not taking anything for granted. This documentary eschews party lines to focus upon eleven stories that fall far below the exploding tote boards and (yes) hologram correspondents that the competing networks try to dazzle us with on the big day. Dazzle. As if the speeches didn’t have that angle covered…

If there is a single thread that knits the 11 stories in Election Day together, it is that despite the cloud of uncertainty that challenges American electoral process, there is no shortage of people who truly understand the value of their right to vote. Documentary filmmaker Katy Chevigny skillfully juggles eleven storylines during Election Day 2004, following subjects from pre-dawn until after midnight. The result is a sobering look at how many individuals interpret the privilege of their right to vote. In fact, the subtle conclusion one can draw is that the more oppressed the individual is – or the greater the struggle – the more determined and inspired they are to make their voice heard in the process.

Without much fanfare we meet several people starting their day; a poll watcher assembling his staff at a coffee shop, remote farm workers getting an early start to the day so their 18-year-old can vote for the first time; parents of a sick child working opposites shifts at the same factory in an effort to stay afloat above unending medical bills. No one has to say ‘real America’ for you to understand that these are hard working people – Democrats, Republicans and independents – who might be skeptical about the system but understand that not participating is a far worse option.

Read my full review at PopMatters.


Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Reviews

2 responses to “Election Day

  1. Michael

    Excellent – thnx for the tip of the Hatlo Hat… Appears to be one from Frederick Wiseman school of documentarianism. I see it’s available on Netflix (DVD only, sorry streamers).

  2. drbristol

    Sadly I don’t believe I have seen any of his, so I’m not certain if his style was as structured; these subjects were aware of being followed as part of the story. The editing was well done – although you cut back and forth a bit you saw the day progress, the urgency start to ratchet up, etc.

    I liked that although the eleven subjects weren’t definitive (as in this covers the spectrum of voting issues) one got the impression that there are so many people like this that we are missing the real story with all those maps and charts. It could have easily plunged into stories of oppression and deceit – certainly there were some curious circumstaces – but the most striking thing was how much of an ant farm collecting and processing everything is, and without having to say it you see how incredibly manual things still are. It was inspiring and scary all at once.

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