Jeff Reichert’s ’00 film “Gerrymandering,” which explores what he considers a significant flaw of the American democratic system, will be screened at the Cable Car Cinema on Feb. 2. Inspired by the 2003 electoral debacle in Texas, Reichert decided to create a documentary to make his audience wonder “why Washington doesn’t work as well as it should,” he said.
The film explores the history and many dimensions of ethical, moral and racial problems raised by redistricting. It draws on perspectives from different individuals, reporters and distinguished politicians including Howard Dean and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger. It analyzes redistricting problems including the 2003 elections in Texas and the passing of Proposition 11 in California in 2008, which dealt with the state’s electoral boundaries.
Matthew Sawh ’08 assisted in the making of “Gerrymandering” and researched the topics relevant to the film.
“A lot of it was finding the right visuals,” he said.
To do so, he searched materials in library archives and reached out to politicians. Like Reichert, Sawh believes that there was “a lot at stake” in the 2003 elections in Texas.
“If people knew what was going on, they could do something to change it,” Sawh said.
But creating a political documentary is not without its challenges. In the process, Reichert learned different strategies in showing how redistricting works, such as using maps to clearly portray the shift of boundaries during political battles. He also said he learned to find just the right kind of stories to bring home the issue of redistricting to the audience.
“As a filmmaker, the best thing you can do is to create a real political change,” Reichert said. “It’s a good example of how people — regular people — can end up taking actions in a way that has an impact.”
According to Daniel Kamil, owner of the Cable Car Cinema, this film will bring “a better understanding of how politicians from both parties manipulate census data to retain power.” With the support of Common Cause, an organization that lobbies for congressional reforms, Kamil was able to invite Reichert to the screening.
“I think (the film) gives a well-balanced, nuanced view of a very complicated subject that people might not necessarily understand but affects our democracy in a fundamental way,” Kamil wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. “It is an important film to see to better understand how our political system works, and the fact that Jeff will be here to answer questions will make it a very special event.”