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Reviewing a Review: Stealing America

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 Stealing the Exigent, Word by Word

Not yet having seen Dorothy Fadiman’s Stealing America: Vote by Vote yet, a documentary on the sorry scene that supposedly expresses the people’s will, now to be expressed within scare quotes, “voting,” I read two lousy reviews of it. One is in Variety magazine, but the other, in the New York Times, utterly glib, antagonized me enough to devote a blog to it and perhaps glorify the critic by quoting him to my modest public.

What is a documentary for? To entertain? I rest my case. Nathan Lee seems to think so. He is looking for “cinematic savoir faire.” In the case of documentaries, just as with television or radio, the main reason information, or infotainment, is imparted is by way of talking heads interspersed with film clips that illustrate points.

The reason I haven’t seen Stealing America is that it suffers from limited engagements and hence won’t come to DC until the end of this month. But there are many other fine documentaries criticizing our highly faulty electoral system, and they mix talking heads with illustrative film clips. And I’m sure there are many other independent documentaries I don’t know about, but they contribute to history, from a progressive viewpoint, and if the medium endures, future generations will have much more information than textbooks and msm will impart.

A parallel occurs to me: that handful of brave members of Congress who introduced articles of impeachment against Bush last week. At least history may know that a few had the courage to try to punish what is, in fact, beyond punishment: multiple and devil-may-care violations of the Constitution, beyond the beyond-belief abuse of executive privilege and condoned torture and annihilation of human lives and subsistences and happiness.

Here is Nathan Lee’s brief and dismissive review published in yesterday’s Times:

Stealing America: Vote by Vote” might have been this year’s most alarming and patriotic documentary if it weren’t so shoddy and dull. Remember all those complaints about “An Inconvenient Truth” playing like an aggrandized PowerPoint presentation? “Stealing America,” by comparison, barely qualifies as a glorified Google search. The filmmaker, Dorothy Fadiman, would argue that that’s exactly the point.
In reporting on the suspicious circumstances of recent elections, she relies on information gathered by bloggers, local newspapers and personal testimony as opposed to the “mainstream media” — those TV networks and national newspapers, which supposedly ignored or dismissed evidence of electoral malfeasance. Ah, “supposedly”! There I go being a tool of the hegemonic MSM. — Nathan Lee, The New York Times
Here is the response I wrote to the editor:
To the Editor: I have just read Nathan Lee's dump on Stealing America: Vote by Vote. Someone should tell him that documentaries are about their subject, not "cinematic savoir faire." Quakers aren't concerned with New York chic when it comes to clothing, but they sure accomplish a lot.
There's a nice, sexy song about election integrity, "If you want to be a voter, don't go to Sarasota," at www.voiceofthevoters.org, where Nathan Lee can receive his "call to arms," if that's what he needs to propel him. Please note that at the top of your readers' movie choices is a satire on the chaotic scene of voting in America these days, Swing Vote.
"A call to arms, then: Let us reform our glitch-ridden electoral system."
Don't be so glib about the glitches, Nate. They determine your future as well as ours.©
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A jack of some trades, writing and editing among them, Marta Steele, an admitted and proud holdover from the late sixties, returned to activism ten years ago after first establishing her skills as a college [mostly adjunct] professor in three (more...)

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Check out John Wellington Ennis' comedic take ... by Heather B on Friday, Aug 15, 2008 at 4:05:29 AM