Friday, April 3, 2020

How do we stop gerrymandering? Find out in Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance's documentary, SLAY THE DRAGON

Gerrymandering? Right. That's the carving up of voting districts in such a way that you can assure that your competition loses every time --- even when there are many more voters on the side opposite yours. This is the subject of the new and hugely important documentary, SLAY THE DRAGON, which shows us the history of this sleazy function, along with how the Republican Party, always the minority party in modern times, has managed to carve up voting districts in the craziest, weirdest of ways in order to assure that Democrats keep losing -- even as they remain the party of the majority.

Directed by filmmakers Barak Goodman (shown at left) and Chris Durrance (below, right), the movie -- as vitally important as is its subject -- turns out to be not quite up to the level of that subject. It tells us, if we follow politics, voting rights and voter suppression at all closely, an awful lot that we already know, it's more repetitive than it needs to be, and in terms of organization occasionally loses its focus.

And yet so necessary and consequential is its subject -- along with what can actually be done about gerrymandering

(you'll learn here what the voters of the state of Michigan did about this via their VNP organization) -- that Slay the Dragon immediately becomes a must-see documentary.

Beginning oddly enough with Flint, Michigan, and that city's water crisis, the doc informs us how gerrymandering enabled all this to occur without those responsible held accountable or voters being able to do anything about this.

Archival footage offers up everyone from Mike Wallace to a much more recent John Oliver, but the really important players here are folk you're not likely to have heard of unless you live and vote in Michigan. That would include an angry, intelligent and very savvy, determined young woman named Katie Fahey (below).

Ms Fahey organizes and leads the VNP (Voters Not Politicians) movement that wants voting districts to be redrawn along much fairer, less partisan lines. (The Slay the Dragon title, as well as its accompanying T-shirt slogan seems to have derived from one voting district carved up so bizarrely that it resembles that dragon.)

We also learn, via Republican Party strategist Chris Jankowski, how and why the 2010 mid-term election was of such importance to Republicans and how Jankowski's gerrymandered redistricting program won statehouses at what was practically a nominal cost (using dark money, advanced technology and zero transparency). We then move to Wisconsin to watch governor Scott Walker's infamous union-busting, and learn how ALEC contributed to all this and more.

By the time we return to Ms Fahey and her fight in Michigan, we're primed to understand how urgent is this movement against gerrymandering. The film makes clear that over time both parties have played this sleazy game, but it is the Republicans that now control and continue the practice.

An unabashedly activist film, the documentary encourage us to fight gerrymandering wherever we live, and in its closing moments shows how -- because our Supreme Court refused to rule on the constitutionality of gerrymandering and turned the problem back over to the individual states -- various states are using the Michigan model to try to halt the practice. Unless you're uber-wealthy, highly corporate, and or simply a brainwashed Republican, I suspect you'll want to get on board.

From Magnolia Pictures and running 103 minutes, Slay the Dragon was to have opened theatrically today, Friday, April 3. But due to Corona and theater closings, it arrives instead via VOD and digitial streaming. Click here to learn where and how you can view.

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