August 18, 2006
movies: bonnie britton
Election film draws praise
As they used to joke,
vote early and often, not for a candidate but for "By the People," a
documentary shot in Indianapolis, screening at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
and Thursday at Landmark's Keystone Art Cinema and Indie Lounge.
A private screening was held last year in Indianapolis; now it's the
"By the People" was filmed in 2004, capturing an insider's view of
the election process by focusing on Marion County Clerk Doris Anne
Sadler and her staff over 11 days leading up to the presidential
Billed as a nonpartisan look at what it takes to pull off an
election, the movie was inspired by director Malindi Fickle's
brother Tim, a young, idealistic deputy clerk who told his sister
about the frustrations of trying to prepare for the big day.
Besides the obvious challenges of new voting machines, changes in
the election laws and lawsuits waged over ballot design, there were
people problems -- not enough volunteer poll workers. So
Fickle, a North Central High School and New York University graduate
whose background includes New York theater work, set out to
cinematically "get under the skin" of the election process, and to
motivate people to participate.
The movie was primarily friends-and-family-financed. Fickle,
traveling across the country this summer to promote the movie, said
her brother was "straight out of IU and would tell me these
outrageous stories of how they didn't have enough people. I watched
him go from 'let's go save the world' to being so frustrated."
Fickle said she met with Sadler about 10 days before filming
started. "It was really guerilla film-shooting at its best."
By telephone, Fickle said that by Election Day, she had three teams
in place working on the movie, including her "sound guy," local
filmmaker John Blankenship, and Kris Lienert, also from
Indianapolis, the director of photography, who "had a rig on that
forced him to move like a robot. When he would take the camera off
at night, he'd still walk like that."
Outside of Indianapolis, the most surprising thing has been how
applicable the film's story is across the country, she said. Fickle
called her reaction "over the moon" when she saw the New York
"By the People" opened in Manhattan July 28, and New York Times
reviewer Nathan Lee called it "heartbreaking in its idealism."
New York Magazine called it "remarkable verite" and said the
"results are mesmerizing."
The feature-length film is in limited nationwide release this summer
and will be shown on PBS stations in October.
As in other cities where the film has played, election board members
will be at the theater Wednesday and Thursday to register moviegoers
to vote and to volunteer as poll workers. Fickle and cast members,
including Sadler, also will attend.