"We The People Fest," got off to a good start with last night's film, "And the Winner Is . . ." It was a real sleeper and will be playing again this evening at 5:30pm. This film clearly set the stage for all the other films to follow and did it with a lot of style and grace. The film was produced by Christina Grozik and Paul Shaia, who are also organizers of the film festival and fellow Ohioans, as well.
As with any film this one took about 2 years to come to fruition. What was surprising was how accurate the film was in mirroring the current presidential campaign. The premise of the film is that modern electoral politics have become more concerned with posturing and profiling than with real substantive issues.
As an example we can look at last night's debate which was styled after an episode on the hit TV show "The West Wing." Jim Lehrer the host for the debate was offered the chance to host that fictional debate, as well, but was precluded by PBS restrictions on the portrayal of their commentators in fictional settings. Apparently, they wanted to make a "clear distinction between fact and fiction." However, when it came to the real debate between Obama and McCain they used the debate on "The West Wing" as their guide.
In the film, which reminded me of the board game "Clue," you see 7 candidates representing various archetypes, such as John Noble the reluctant, true-blue, all-American, John Kennedy-like, heroic champion of truth, justice and the American way. Other types represented include two apolitical women; an Italian politician; a member of the town's old boy network; a corrupt career politician; a smooth-talking African American politician and a political wannabe type.
Each character is a caricature of a politician we know and surprisingly similar to a number of the candidates in the current election cycle. The whole process of creating a beauty pageant-like contest is caught on film by a novice filmmaker who has an uncanny resemblance to the producer of the actual film. www.winneris.net
The film got high marks from the 100 plus members of the audience present last night, which was a good turnout, considering the screening occurred during the same time slot as the 1st presidential debate of 2008, between Obama and McCain.
Today's featured films will include "American Blackout," "Swing Vote" and "Hacking Democracy." For those of you unable to attend last night's screening "And The Winner Is . . ." will be shown again at 5:30pm this afternoon.
I've attached some background information on Cynthia McKinney the star of "American Blackout" FYI. This film chronicles, "the recurring patterns of voter disenfranchisement from Florida 2000 to Ohio 2004 while following the story of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. McKinney not only took an active role investigating these election debacles, but has found herself in the middle of her own after publicly questioning the bush Administration about the 9/11 terrorist attacks." www.americanblackout.org
"Swing Vote," starring Kevin Costner, Kelsey Grammar and Dennis Hopper will air this evening using a 35mm format, which has necessitated the use of The University Theater on the south side of Kent, since the university no longer has the equipment to show movies using this format anymore.
With a premise similar to "And The Winner Is . . .," this movie turns the idea of voting on its head, by making the outcome of the race dependent on one man's vote. Thereby forcing both candidates to jockey for position, offering up favors and changes in their platform to suit said voter, played by Kevin Costner.
As if that wasn't enough, "Hacking Democracy" gives us some insight into the possibility of voting fraud via the use of computers, hence the title. This is a serious documentary about a Seattle grandmother and her band of extraordinary citizen-activists as they go on a quest to see how votes are tallied in a number of states across the country. They set out to show just how easily your vote can be nullified, changed and or otherwise manipulated on election and actually made to look so official as to be undetectable.
The whole premise is ominously frightening as we move closer to this year's election. This film sounds a wake up call to all those who treasure the American way of electing its leaders. This film is a must see on the list of films being shown this weekend.
If you can't make it to Kent this weekend, many of this films are or will be offered on the net. Check "We The People Fest" for the full listing of films. The films can be ordered from the websites of production company.
Look for further updates over the course of the weekend, as well as behind the scenes interviews and a virtual tour of the newly renovated Center of Pan-African Culture at Kent State.