11/4/08 Dir. Jeff Deutchman

[Consensual Cinema; 2010]

Styles: participatory documentary
Others: RIP: A Remix Manifesto, The Power of the Powerless, After the Fall

11/4/08’s central thesis is that pretty much everyone had strong feelings about the last presidential election. Regardless of whether people felt (as many in the documentary do) that the messiah had finally arrived, everyone knew something central in American politics had changed forever when Barack Obama became the 44th President of the USA. While I can think of quite a few people who remained just as politically disengaged as ever during the run up to the last presidential election, Jeff Deutchman, the curator and editor of this documentary, saw fit to petition several of his friends from around the world to film their subjective experiences of Election Day.

Deutchman, the Independent Film Channel’s Manager of Acquisitions and Productions, has said that he sees this project as an evolving documentary, a lot like Brett Gaylor’s RIP: A Remix Manifesto. He is encouraging more and more people to submit any footage they might’ve shot on November 4 of 2008, hoping to create as complete and organic a narrative as possible of a day he deems more important than any other in his lifetime. Some of the submissions included in 11/4/08 verge on propaganda, featuring teary-eyed older campaign volunteers expressing their opinions on how terrible American has been for the past decade and how everything will be better once a Democrat is elected president. One might expect this kind of naiveté from a doe-eyed young idealist, but to see seasoned political campaigners put that much of their faith into one man is a little unnerving and somewhat disappointing.

The timing of the film’s release suggests that 11/4/08 is geared towards getting out the vote for Democratic candidates this midterm election. In a political landscape that is looking uncannily like 1994 all over again, many of those candidates look pretty much dead in the water these days, quite a few of them distancing themselves from the president who only two years ago would have virtually guaranteed their success. While the apparent aim of 11/4/08 is to rekindle the tremendous amount of optimism, enthusiasm, and energy displayed by young voters two years ago, it seems that showing people how idealistic they were in contrast to what’s going on right now might also serve the increase their cynicism about both politics in general and the Democratic Party in particular. Speaking of which, the most prescient moment in the documentary occurs when an unnamed German reveler at an election day party in Berlin warns his American friends that the frenzy over Mr. Obama would inevitably lead to a sense of deflation when the impossible promises made by his campaign proved to be… well… impossible.

At the end of the day, 11/4/08 is an interesting collection of the opinions of several people eagerly watching as political history was made. While the film is definitely biased, featuring only submissions from those who were either literally working on the Obama campaign or obviously supporting the Democratic Party, one can assume that folks on the other side of the political spectrum will submit their filmed opinions to Deutchman and help to fulfill the exciting potential of this participatory documentary.

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