W H A T :
W H E N :
Doors open at 1:30 pm, film starts at 2:00 pm.
W H E R E :
953 Eden Park Dr, Eden Park/Mt. Adams.
click for Directions & Map
T I C K E T S :
Tickets will not be sold at additional outlets for this event, but will be available at the door.
The Post-Film Discussion features two Cincinnati-based filmmakers from ELECTION DAY:
Melissa Godoy, cinematographer and field producer
Andrea Torrice, field producer
A Different Story About Elections
>>> Watch the trailer, above.
>>> Read the WVXU film review by Larry Thomas, here.
>>> Listen to the WVXU review here.
ELECTION DAY is an unusual political film -- not about candidates, political races or debates over issues -- but an exploration of the act of voting. It provides a snapshot of the nation through portraits of voters, poll workers, party faithfuls and even people who have opted out of the process altogether.
This unique documentary gives people a chance to stop and ponder the value and effectiveness of a process that many Americans take for granted. As it reveals uneven voting experiences across the country, it challenges viewers to think about the nature of American democracy and whether what happens on the ground adequately achieves the nation's democratic ideals.
About the Film
Forget the pie charts, color-coded maps and hyperventilating pundits. What's the street-level experience of voters in today's America?
In a triumph of documentary storytelling, Election Day combines eleven stories--all shot simultaneously on November 2, 2004, from dawn until long past midnight-into one. Factory workers, ex-felons, harried moms, Native American activists, and diligent poll watchers, from South Dakota to Florida, take the process of democracy into their own hands.
The result: an entertaining, inspiring and sometimes unsettling tapestry of citizens determined on one fateful day to make their votes count.
Several Cincinnati filmmakers were involved in the production of this film, including award-winning documentary filmmakers Melissa Godoy and Andrea Torrice, and sound engineer Geoff Maxwell. YES! A portion of this documentary was shot in Cincinnati ! Are you in it?
Election Day follows an eclectic group of voters over one day, namely Election Day 2004, from the early morning until well after midnight. Capturing people from all walks of life, including an ex-felon voting for the first time at age 50 and a factory worker debating gay marriage with his co-workers, the film presents a glimpse of the real life stories that lie underneath the complex electoral process.
Jim Fuchs, a Republican poll-watcher, takes us on an energized ride through the precincts of largely Democratic Chicago, railing against the city's "machine" politics. Rashida Tlaib of Dearborn, Michigan, mobilizes Muslims to vote. Eighteen-year-old Franny Fisher, of Stockholm, Wisconsin registers and votes at the same time in a one-room building staffed by her neighbor from down the road. Meanwhile, an international elections observer in St. Louis, Missouri is shocked to see voters waiting in line for two hours. A Native American activist works to get out the vote in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
As these stories intertwine, audiences take in a portrait of American elections that is expansive, revealing and intimate. It is an entertaining and sometimes unsettling tapestry of the stories of citizens who are determined on one fateful day to make their vote count.
By Katy Chevigny
The Idea: A Different Story About Elections
In the fall of 2004, we started thinking about making a film on the upcoming 2004 election. We knew that there was ample coverage of the "horse race" of the campaigns, and that the close contest between "red" and "blue" states was at the forefront of everyone's minds, so we looked to cover something different. We set out to depict portraits of real people who make our democracy work, whose actions are not the kind of thing that would make the evening news. The jumping off place for Election Day was the 2000 election, which had brought the failures of our voting systems into sharp focus. We decided to look at how the shadow of that election would affect the attitudes and experiences of voters and poll-workers across the country in 2004.
My favorite documentaries are those that both have something to say—either through the story, the characters or a unique perspective on society—and that also offer a creative approach to filmmaking. This approach can be many different things but on some level it makes the documentary "feel like a movie." Election Day is meant to play like that, with politics, humor, emotion and history—basically everything you find in life but in movie form.
The Format: Many Locations, Many Characters and One Day to Shoot
Election Day is one of the few days in the United States on which so many Americans are collectively engaged in a common activity. Over 100 million people across the country vote together on a single day. This short span of time—less than 24 hours—encompasses a mammoth operation through which the people choose the leader of the free world. We decided on a "form-follows-function" approach to the film's structure: what the United States populace does in one day, so would the film. We would shoot all the footage on November 2, 2004. There are many fiction films that use this one-day conceit, but constructing a documentary film on a national scale out of a single day's footage was a fantastic challenge.
A big part of the puzzle was to film this same "one-day" in many different locations at once. With the wide variations in voter experiences, we believed that no one location (or even two or three) would be sufficient to capture the breadth and character of this public election endeavor. And again, the creative challenge appealed to me: Can we weave together footage from all over the country into one cohesive piece? The safe route would have been to stick with two or three characters, but I wanted to get a richer texture. Inspired by filmmakers who celebrate the invigorating chaos of multiple characters such as Robert Altman or Jean Renoir, I decided to try to work with what would traditionally be considered too many situations, too ambitious, and, by some, undoable. In my mind, I wanted the film Election Day to be as broad a portrait of the real Election Day as we could get.
The Plan: A Big One-Day Shoot
Starting in late September, our small production team set ourselves the task of "casting" the different characters, locations or stories we intended to follow on November 2, 2004. This was a massive undertaking that required calling upon colleagues, friends and family for leads on interesting, unusual or colorful Election Day scenarios. We also worked with some nonprofit election reform partners, such as the Global Exchange, the Brennan Center for Justice, Project VOTE and Demos, who provided valuable insights into locations where problems or improvements in the voting systems were apparent. Producers Maggie Bowman and Dallas Brennan Rexer, in tandem with Associate Producer Christy King and other staff producers at Arts Engine, created a giant grid on the wall—what we called the "matrix"—so we could cross reference characters with locations and available crews.
In addition to the casting, the team was also tenacious in fighting for access to film in polling places around the country, something that is often discouraged by local election offices if not downright prohibited, as in the state of Florida. These prohibitions intensified our determination to get into polling places as much as we could. Much of the confusion had occurred at polling places in 2000. Was the public going to be prohibited from documenting what occurs at these sites? Our unequivocal answer was, No way.
One of the dangers of working with multiple crews is that the look of the film might not be consistent across locations. To address this, I created a document that served as a set of guidelines for the kind of cinéma vérité style I was looking for. Pay attention to the small regional detail, the quiet moment. We don't need talking-head interviews. Don't ask the subjects to repeat actions. We don't need to shoot it like we're TV news crews, but instead shoot it like this is a story of one person's daily activities. I also had extensive conversations with each DP and field producer, many of whom were acclaimed filmmakers who generously offered their time to work one long, grueling day. Our star crews included Kirsten Johnson, cinematographer and co-director of our previous film Deadline, Dana Kupper, award-winning cinematographer of Stevie, Juan Carlos Zaldívar and Vic Losick, among many others.
When November 2nd arrived, a team of three worked the headquarters in our New York office, fielding updates from our crews around the country. We had the incredible experience of going from zero hours of footage to 105 hours by the next morning, something like a drag race for footage. It was thrilling! Receiving the tapes from our crews in the weeks that followed was like an early Christmas. Since it was impossible for us to be on every shoot, each new package represented a new discovery of what the film would eventually become.
Putting It All Together
By the time we began editing, I had become inspired by Spencer Overton's book "Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression," which illuminates patterns in many of these devilish details that our footage, and now the film, reveals. A former member of the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform, Spencer Overton explains how seemingly insignificant practices at the local level can control the outcome of elections and weaken the real power of voters. As an advisor to Election Day, Spencer screened footage and threw ideas around with us, providing valuable insights into how our footage fit into a larger picture of the election system pressure points that are under scrutiny today.
There is no way of knowing where your film is going to end up when you edit a cinéma vérité film. We had a couple of governing principles for our edit process but everything else was up for grabs as we followed the guide of the footage itself.
One principle was that the film structure would loosely follow the chronology of the day, starting at 4:30 a.m. with Jim Fuchs in Chicago and ending after 1 a.m. in Quincy, Florida. Another principle was that we would steer away from the story of the presidential race as much as possible, in order to focus on the local situations of our characters and places. Lastly, as a sort of creative philosophy, we wanted to ensure that we left space in the film for minor details of character, of place and of time. This was partly because the footage demonstrates how aptly the phrase "the devil is in the details" sums up many of the major problems in the electoral process. Also, by preserving the visual and auditory nuances of various locations around the country, we hoped to make the film a specific portrait of the U.S. in 2004 as well as a commentary on the election process itself.
With those broad guidelines, we then had the task of screening all 105 hours of footage and searching for the similarities and contrasts that would give the film vivid texture and drama. After narrowing the footage down to our favorite scenes, the rest of the process was essentially a video and audio sudoku puzzle. As we moved closer to the end of the process, it became increasingly clear that moving one scene caused a ripple effect that changed the emotional tenor of a number of surrounding scenes as well. The final film structure reflects this interdependence among the stories and the decisions we made within this puzzle. Our hope is that the effect of Election Day on the viewer is greater than the sum of its parts, showing a portrait of the U.S. election system that no one has seen before.