On Friday, November 2nd, filmmaker, activist, and native Ohioan, Roger Hill, joined us at ATA for a screening of his film, Struggle, an inquiry into voter suppression, manipulation, and fraud at the Ohio polls in 2004. In light of recent efforts to suppress the vote, and with Ohio poised to play a similarly decisive roll in the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, Struggle is both timely and disquieting. During election season, it is tempting to sink into apathy and disillusionment, to throw up one’s hands at the bloated march of interested money and agitation rhetoric. Hill’s earnest effort to expose injustice reminds us that our participation matters, not just in terms of casting a ballot, but also in raising an alarm when we witness something that’s seriously f**ed up.
I’d like to encourage anyone reading to visit Struggle’s website, and any filmmakers to document the voting process as you witness it (pen: sword, camera: automatic weapon). Public opinion makes a difference.
That said, a social justice film runs the risk of preaching to the choir. Struggle is not bipartisan– Hill and his camera are firmly located among the protesters, and there one moment particularly where the film indicts the uninformed citizen. In a street interview, a man says that if the vote was really being suppressed, people would be upset about it. The footage cuts immediately to the protesters holding signs about the suppressed vote. This juxtaposition effectively creates an us and them statement, but it might have been used to illuminate the real communication failure between the people who have been disenfranchised and those who haven’t.
I believe that the vast majority of American people oppose voter suppression, but they are convinced by their media sources that it’s not really happening. A film like Struggle could potentially reach those unbelievers. The footage of voters waiting in long lines in the rain, and the interviews with election observers are some of the most powerful moments in the movie. It’s fine for Struggle to rally the liberal troops, but what would be really revolutionary is if it took those images and showed them to the guy in the street interview.
Between interviewing voters on the ground, and researching tactics of data manipulation, the film covers a lot of ground. From a pure watchability standpoint, I would have appreciated some comic relief. Humor goes hand in hand with struggle; it empowers, and I bet people made some good jokes while they were waiting in those ridiculously long lines.
It’s a real feat on the part of Hill and his team to have put this project together. If you feel helpless against the powers that be, this is a reminder of the power of voice in the age of modern technology. Watch the movie. Support the cause. Vote.