Gerrymandering: The Motion Picture
Feng decided to take action after receiving a call from a candidate telling her, “You’re not gonna put another [expletive] Asian resident in my district.”
It’s a rare jolt of excitement in an otherwise sobering feature, and even Schwarzenegger‘s fading star power offers little illumination.
Gerrymandering tries to spotlight praise-worthy politicians who wouldn’t mind if the practice went the way of the eight-track tape, but the film doesn’t allow them enough screen time for them to matter.
We’re left with the documentary standby -- the “man on the street” interviews -- which reveals just how little known “gerrymandering” is among the masses.
The biggest example of redistricting chaos comes in recalling the battle between Texas legislators over plans by Tom Delay to reshape the map in the Republican’s favor. It’s the juiciest story in recent gerrymandering history, but the film spends far too much time with the event’s tiniest details. Yes, the Democrats fled for the cozy confines of a Holiday Inn, but a sharper documentary would burrow into more pertinent findings.
Gerrymandering seems to be under control in Iowa, according to the film. The state enacted a system involving a three-person team to lord over any redistricting requirements. But Iowa’s lack of diversity doesn’t give other states enough of a template to follow, the film warns.
“No matter which way you slice Iowa, you get Iowa,” one expert says. It‘s a hint that the film has little interest in pursuing why particular groups vote in near unison on Election Day.
Gerrymandering ultimately pines for a less fractured republic, one where the far left and far right take their cues from Moderate Nation. It’s something quite rare to see in a genre where liberal giants like Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) and Michael Moore roam with impunity. It also renders the film a tad dull, and Reichert isn’t able to invest the topic with the mixture of razzle dazzle and emotion to overcome that sad fact.
That makes the film’s curt running time -- 77 minutes -- and occasional animated snippets all the more welcome. Watching Gerrymandering might feel like a scholastic homework assignment, but it’s important to get the topic on the minds of voters today -- and tomorrow.