"Democracy in the contemporary world demands, among other things, an educated and informed people." - Elizabeth Bishop
As we prepare to vote in the upcoming important election, here are some films that remind us of our recent history at the polls, and may help get you in the mood for this November 3rd. Being reminded of our history and learning from it just might make you carefully consider your own vote too.
VICE, opens a new window - this political history lesson was clever and artful, even as it was informational. It's about the reign of Cheney as vice president, and is thought provoking in terms of current leadership as well. Christian Bale completely transformed for this role and was amazing, no wonder he won the Golden Globe.
RECOUNT, opens a new window - this movie reminds us of a time in history (2000) when the election was so close, it came down to the hanging chad and a few hundred votes in deciding the presidency. Elections do have consequences, and I found myself wondering how things might have been different today if that particular race went the other way, especially considering global warming.
IDES OF MARCH, opens a new window - this one speaks to the strategies of campaigns, but is not based on our actual history. It has amazing star power and acting with its cast of George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Rachel Evan Wood, Paul Giamatti, & Marisa Tomei.
LONG SHOT, opens a new window - Finally, here is something much more light-hearted with Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron as a potential first female presidential candidate. Ultimately it was simply entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny!
Happy National Voter Registration Day, opens a new window and get ready to VOTE!
Voting and elections can be a very complicated thing, for people of any age to understand. If your kids are curious and want to understand more, check out Today, Explained: The Island of Explained: Election Day, opens a new window podcast available through Spotify or Apple Podcasts, opens a new window. Originally aired July 31, 2020, it's a great overview of the election process as the residents of The Island of Explained try to decide whether to go with the Now or the Later party. Kids voices and opinions are interjected into the story-line, making it even more engaging. The hosts also visit a library to learn about the U.S. election system and the history of the electoral college from a librarian. Getting more information from libraries always gets my vote!
Are you looking for more explanations of how U.S. government works, set to unforgettable beats? You can request and checkout Schoolhouse Rocks the Vote!: A Benefit for Rock the Vote, opens a new window featuring covers of the classic Schoolhouse Rocks America! songs by artists from the late 1990s, including The Roots and Joan Osborne.
The War Room, opens a new window is a thrilling, behind-closed-doors account of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, which made George Stephanopoulos, opens a new window and James Carville, opens a new window household names. The filmmakers' fly-on-the-wall approach closely followed the brainstorming and bull sessions of Clinton's crack team of consultants. Academy Award nominee, directed by Chris Hegedus, opens a new window.
Please Vote For Me, opens a new window - Two males and a female vie for office, engaging in low blows, spin, and character assassination. They are third graders in Wuhan, China vying for the position of class monitor. A brilliant and entertaining documentary. "Part American Idol and part Survivor" - Washington Post.
Street Fight, opens a new window follows one politician's attempt to fight a clean campaign against a longstanding incumbent bent on re-election. This absolutely riveting look at Cory Booker's campaign against the incumbent for mayor of Newark, NJ in 2002 offers a rare glimpse into the corruption, intimidation and cronyism of the local political machine. Raw and exciting footage shot in real time, this mesmerizing film was nominated for an Academy Award. Directed by Marshall Curry, opens a new window (this year's Academy Award winner for his short "The Neighbor's Window", opens a new window, as well as the director of the important short "A Night at the Garden"., opens a new window)
Another interesting find from Frederick Wiseman, opens a new window, State Legislature, opens a new window is an interesting view of Idahoan politicians at work. Exactly like High School, featured last time, this documentary presents no commentary on its subject; it is just a string of clips of lawmakers discussing various issues that their community faces. In this age of volatile politics, it's important to be able to look at the people making decisions about laws in a human light. Also, there are an above average amount of discussions about cows.
11/8/16, opens a new window examines people all over the country on the day Donald Trump was elected president. People discuss why they're voting for Clinton or Trump or a third party candidate, how the polls all predicted Clinton winning, why voting is important to them or why they refuse to vote, among other things relevant to the election. I appreciated this film for taking an impartial look at all sides; after four years of division, it's also important to remember that everyone had a reason for their opinions.
Digital Disconnect, opens a new window examines the influence of the internet on democracy. It starts from looking at the beginning of the internet in regular society and explores how it has consumed so much of our lives in just 20 years. It discusses how various parts of the internet work (such as targeted advertising) and why these things might be concerning. If you don't have time to watch the full thing, there is also an abridged version that will save you 30 minutes.
You can check out all of the above films on Kanopy, opens a new window.
Outside our website's walls, I've found Khan Academy's civics course, opens a new window a helpful resource for refreshing my knowledge of our government and the founding principles of our country.
The recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg saddened me greatly, for we lost a strong and important woman who brought compassion, intelligence and a passion for Women’s Rights to her role as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Here are 2 documentaries where in one you will learn more about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and in the other learn of the first black woman to be elected to the United States Congress, and who would later run for president.
RBG, opens a new window – we were all blessed to have had Justice Ginsburg fighting for our rights for these many years. This excellent documentary will share more information about this remarkable woman.
Chisholm ’72 – Unbought and Unbossed, opens a new window – I was 12 when Ms. Chisholm ran for president and didn’t appreciate how difficult this was for her at the time. I wonder, would it be easier now? Sadly, I don’t think
These two documentaries were found on Kanopy, opens a new window
Women have long been voicing their opinions on their rights, or lack thereof. Here you can hear their words being spoken by Ruby Dee., opens a new window Included are speeches by Maria W. Stewart, opens a new window, Sojourner Truth, opens a new window, Sarah Parker Redmond, opens a new windowand Mary Church Terrel, opens a new window.
What if I am a Woman? Vol 1. Black Women’s Speeches, opens a new window – This collection of speeches written by influential 19th century African-American women’s rights activists presents views of equality, tolerance, action, and strength.
This wonderful collection of speeches can be found on Alexander Street, opens a new window
There is a great legacy of films that examine the process of election and how it plays out through America's culture.
I can think of no greater film about this than Robert Altman's Nashville, opens a new window (not to be confused with the recent television series, opens a new window). Tracking multiple characters across a few days during an election, the film shows how politics, capitalism and pop culture fuse and influence each other. The combination of unexpected plotting, eccentric characters and flashes of broad humor make for an entertaining and illuminating viewing experience.
Nat Bates for Mayor, opens a new window. Set in Richmond, California, this documentary looks at the aftermath of the 2012 Chevron fire and how corporate sponsorship, environmental concerns and community infighting all collide in a difficult contest for mayor. The difficulties in balancing all these concerns, shows the importance and complications of local elections. Watch it now on Freegal.
If you're looking for inspiration for solving difficult political, Power to the People - Protest Songs, opens a new window offers a hopeful historical narrative through song of people overcoming difficulties when things looked very bleak. We forget that songs like "This Land is Your Land, opens a new window" were born of political strife but rallied political will to a better place.
Movies & Music - Questions of the Week
What is your favorite type of movie?
This is your chance to get your voice heard!
Question of the Week II
What is your favorite type of music?
Last week's trivia answer was: Pretty in Pink