Creating a Fair Electoral Process in the United States
"By the People"
Putting elections together in small towns across America is a daunting challenge of organizational skill and dedication for bands of government workers and volunteers. In this case study of one such event in Indianapolis, Indiana, Malindi Fickle centers her camera on County Clerk Doris Anne Sadler as the engine behind one such complex undertaking.
The distribution of ballots, voting machines and all necessary paraphernalia, the training and assignments of poll workers, dealing with legal questions, party differences, shortages, time pressure, lack of resources, and an utmost desire to do it correctly make for a piece of work that's not for the timid or the weak.
Sadler, an elected official, guides her small crew of government employees and volunteers with leadership aplomb and cool reserve, ever able to field questions and put fires out through election day. Our witnessing of her days of effort through Fickle's documentary gives a renewed feeling of appreciation for the effort involved to make our institutions of democracy work at the baseline, the ballot box, and do it every time it's needed.
The documentary approach is straightforward and as determined as the electoral subject itself, displaying nothing very special in the technique behind the story telling. Lots of footage, assembled with the chronology of the event into a natural structure.
As a reminder of our civic duties and a call for manpower in the form of volunteers, it works well. After 2-day theatrical runs around the country, "By the People" aired in October, 2006 on PBS stations nationwide. Touch the dial. Feel the call.
~~ Jules Brenner Cinema Signals