Every year the plains of Kansas burst wide open with film through the Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita, not just any film, but this year as an example, film on the fringe, film that pays tribute to the Independent film maker. This year is no exception, and as a result the first film I choose to see is a film addressing the political climate in America. A concept not to be lost with recent news within the last 24 hours with the firing of Juan Williams from NPR for his supposed commentary on the Fox News Program, Bill O’Reilly’s The Factor. People engaged in politics are interested in the news of recent, whether it be the seeming hypocrisy of some in the Liberal Left regarding the firing of Juan Williams, the reported dogmas of those in the Tea Party or the mid term elections that are only a few days away, the world, including film, seems to be bursting at the seams to engage in political discourse.
I am somewhat of a political moderate; I love politics as a hobby. I tend to be driven in my politics by my faith. Another concept not lost on me at the moment is the pre screen testing that is taking place right now as Dave Matthews is singing in a concert video about Jesus, and his role regarding faith and the practice of faith in the political system.
The documentary Gerrymandering takes a look at the political process of redrawing voting districts. This is most often done for various reasons and normally every 10 years after the federal census which looks at population growth and decline. The redrawing of voting districts takes place for various reasons. The premise here is it takes place at the directives of those in power, those in the state and federal legislatures. In this process, redistricting is often done to maintain and continue political power, essentially taking the power away from the people making the decisions.
The film is written and directed by Jeff Reichert. Reichert does a very good job of keeping the story moving and in being fair in his approach. It is rare that a documentary is impartial, and ultimately they all have a premise and purpose, but Gerrymandering takes a seemingly fair approach. It would have been easy to take the side of a particular political party, but the documentary takes the side of the man and woman in the street, ultimately the voter. The film also does a good job in the other technical aspects, including lighting and sound, often ignored or not taken as seriously as need be in independent film.
As mentioned above, Gerrymandering pulls no punches, it attacks both political parties equally in the exploration of this concept designed to give power to the politicians as opposed to the people. Unfortunately, the people often believe they have the power to elect individuals of their choice into office. Using pundits on both sides of the political spectrum, from Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger to former National Democratic Chair, Howard Dean; Gerrymandering takes a fair approach at addressing this issue. One of the concepts this documentary hits hard on is the lack of knowledge among the American people on this issue, and the reality that behind closed doors things are done by those in power to take away the voice of the people in the voting booth.
Many place a great deal of faith in their country, in the concept of Democracy. Yet, as we see in Gerrymandering, the reality is that unless people make the effort to better understand the government which they live, their voices may be heard far less than one expects. When politicians redraw districts to create a voting district to remove a potential opponent in a future election, or to maintain power for a particular political party, one has to wonder what kind of voice, what kind of respect is ultimately given to the voter.
At the heart of the film is the willingness of some to make a difference. As a part of the backdrop of Gerrymandering is the California effort to pass Proposition 11. Here we see people rising up and voicing their concerns against a political system that has the politicians drawing the political district lines as they do in most states. In the process we see the need to stand up and speak up for ourselves and for others. We not only benefit ourselves when we speak up, but the sacrifices we make help others around us. We also see the recognition of others that self sacrifice results in helping others in Gerrymandering; it is in fact, their desire to help others that moves them to the place of sacrificing their time, effort and actions. We see this minimally in their willingness to keep on standing up, even while trying many times, failing many times, yet they get back up and try again until they accomplish something of value. In a world where it is so easy to quit after one or two failures, to see the benefit of perseverance is refreshing. I remember the words of Jesus here, telling us, what we have done for the least of these, we have also done for him.
I love politics as a hobby as mentioned above, but it is one of the most frustrating hobbies I have. I see documentaries like this that appropriately explores and questions the way our political system works, yet the political parties, on both sides seem to care less about changing the system, and the people who are largely impacted by things like gerrymandering. Those on the extreme fringes seem to either not care, or are unwilling to do what is necessary to see to it that the people have the power through the voting process. We seem to blindly place our faith in a political system that is designed to help the politician and their interest, and at the same time ignore the people and their needs. Something about that line: ‘We the people,’ seems to be lost in translation. I have to wonder, do we the people really have a voice, and do we really care? Are we willing to do what is necessary to up for those who are often left behind and abused by the system? Those are questions we can all think about and apply regarding not the issue of political process, but in the issue of life.
To view the trailer for Gerrymandering, click on the video below, if the video doesn't appear, click on the following link:
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