Monday, November 1, 2010

Jeff Deutchman's 11/4/08 compilation is a depressing reminder for Election Day

If you are able to dimly recall an entire decade past, and then flash forward eight years to the last Presidential election, you may also remember the joy that a large majority of Americans felt at the coming to power of a President who might just right some wrongs and set our country back on course. This "remembering" will probably mean thinking about 9/11 and even further back to Bush fils' being handed his "election" by our Supreme Court without nearly enough verifiable recounts and with no redress of those voters in Florida who were robbed of their right to vote. You may also be put in mind of energy "meetings" whose records are still unavailable to us because of "national security" claims (even though ENRON, one of those in attendance, has since been proven a "sleaze" company that has ceased to exist). Remember, as well, the outset of two wars (at least one of which was taken on via lies and false pretenses), both of which are still going on.

Two weeks before the election of Barack Obama, filmmaker Jeff Deutchman (shown below) asked his friends around the world to record their experiences of 11/4/08, a day that might just become "historic" -- and indeed now has. Deutchman collected the footage and combined it into a 71-minute movie called 11/4/08: a combination of the work of some amateur filmmakers, as well as some acclaimed directors of small independent films -- Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths), Joe Swanberg (Alexander the Last) and Benh Zeitlin (the short Glory At Sea), plus one fellow who was not so well-known then but certainly is by now (Henry Joost of Catfish).

The footage itself comes from around the world (Paris, Berlin, Geneva, Dubai, New Delhi), though most of it was shot in the USA -- in St. Louis and Austin, where idealistic volunteers hope to turn their states blue; in Chicago, as waiting to vote is made even lengthier by Obama himself showing up to cast his own vote; in L.A., where a son listens to his mother (via cell phone in Chicago) explaining her chance encounter with the soon-to-be Prez. Probably the most trenchant and realistic verbiage comes from a man in Harlem, who explains to the fellow doing the filming that he is a felon, and casts some rather prescient doubt on whether any of this will actually affect his life.

In some ways (quite a few, actually), 11/4/08 has the effect of rubbing salt in our wounds. The new President who promised change has now given a pass to Wall Street and the Banks, while using his power more to ferret out whistle-blowers than on prosecuting the crimes of his predecessor. Well, what should we have expected?  A look at Obama's pre-Presidential voting record on, say, gun control, should have given any interested researcher an idea of what was to come: compromise and ineffectuality. Of course this is better than the out-and-out economic rape of the middle and lower classes by the former regime, while making even wealthier the already wealthy. But arriving, as it has, on top of that regime, the new one simply wastes precious time and dwindling valuable resources, while doing far too little about unemployment and the economy. (Our President should stop his ineffectual compromising and pay more attention to Paul Krugman and far less to the likes of David Brooks.)

As a film, 11/4/08 is pretty much what you'd expect: bright and cheerful and full of hope, with a very occasional nod to the reality that was bound to follow on the heels of election night. All of which adds, as one watches, increasing portions of salt. Yet among the many moments of joy and relief at the end of the Bush II era come some that stand out: An older volunteer, a black woman, break into tears as she thanks her co-volunteers for "working so hard for a man of character, not just 'a black man'."  Another young girl tells of her experience getting a man who was blind in one eye out to vote, and it's delightful, funny, sad, serious. And the sight and sound of Brooklynites -- at 1am of the morning after, singing The Star-Spangled Banner -- is more moving than I would have imagined.

So, if you can bear the pain of stacking today's reality next to the hope that bloomed two years ago, by all means, give 11/4/08 a watch. The film released October 22 nationwide via VOD on the following digital platforms: iTunes, AmazonVOD, Sony Playstation, CinemaNow -- and is also available via Netflix.

Above photos are from the film, except for that of Mr. Deutchman, which comes courtesy of

No comments: