I finally got the chance to watch the final cut (or so he says) of John Wellington Ennis' ingenious and inspiring Free For All! over the weekend. Taglined "One Dude's Quest for Democracy", the latest in the burgeoning election integrity documentary cannon offers yet another fresh look at our democracy on the precipice.
It's also damned funny --- which is a very nice change of pace --- and brings both the soul and spirit of your favorite Saturday morning Schoolhouse Rock to the serious concerns of America's mindblowing electoral dysfunction.
While previous films in the genre have often focused more narrowly on the filmmaker's particularly favorite bête noire, such as voting machines, voter suppression, whistleblowers or the examination of specific aberrations of democracy (such as Florida 2000 or Ohio 2004), Free For All! uses Ohio's 2006 election --- featuring '04 villain, OH Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's quest for the Governorship --- to examine "all of the above", as Ennis himself serves as the Michael Moore-ian "Dude" trying to figure out just what the hell has gone wrong with the system. Answer: Just about damned near everything.
(Watch the FFA! preview at right.)
Ennis even manages to close a bit of a loop on 2004 by bringing in the "Don't Tase Me, Bro" FSU student who, in fact, was attempting to get a real answer from John Kerry on why he rolled over on the '04 election when he received a few thousand volts of thanks for his efforts. Real ones. As opposed to the imaginery ones that ABCNBCCBSCNNMSNBCFOX used on themselves to shut down reportage on
one several of the greatest crimes of modern times.
Ennis also succeeds in offering a solution to many of the discovered woes...
Near the end of his quest to figure out who is supposed to be watching over our public elections, to keep these nightmares from occurring, he discovers the answer --- in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people --- is actually citizen oversight.
"I'm the oversight," Ennis notes in his revelation, before adding "that's really depressing."
But, as he quickly finds out, what's actually depressing is doing nothing. What's empowering, on the other hand, is taking action, as Ennis himself did when he helped found the incredibly important Video The Vote movement. VtV will, again this year, be out in force across the country, documenting our democracy for the world to see. Please join that movement! It takes little more than a video camera. Even a cell phone will do! And nothing could be less depressing.
Please add Free For All! to your ever expanding election integrity documentary library! And then get busy!
[DISCLOSURE: You should be forewarned that, yeah, I appear in this one too. But, like many of the others, it's good anyway!]
[NOTE: Ennis will be joining me, along with Patty Sharaf, filmmaker of the frightening Murder, Spies & Voting Lies, this Thursday at Noon PT on KPFK --- 90.7FM Los Angeles, 98.7FM Santa Barbara and streaming on KPFK.org --- as I host a fundraising hour for the Pacifica station, featuring live interviews with both filmmakers and DVD give-aways for supporters!]