Thursday, October 21, 2010

Movie with Abe: 11/4/08

Directed by Jeff Deutchman
Released October 20, 2010

It’s often not until years or even decades later that documentarians chronicle a major historical event. With considerable research, an accurate picture of important and monumental happenings can be painted, but it’s just not the same as being there in the moment to capture it. In some cases, having cameras rolling as events unfold can taint them in an unfortunate way, where people begin to act differently because they know they’re being filmed. Interviews can only do so much, and therefore getting in on the action, when reasonably possible, is a necessary facet of any great documentary. And in “11/4/08,” that’s exactly the point: to be present to capture history in the making.

To call Jeff Deutchman the director of “11/4/08” isn’t exactly appropriate. This film is a collaborative process that combines the work of a number of filmmakers around the globe, who took to the streets before and during the famed U.S. presidential election in 2008, where Barack Obama triumphed over John McCain. Having cameras filming this entire process does make sense, considering the international nature of Obama’s campaign and subsequent win. It was a sensational occurrence, and to not document it would almost seem irresponsible, and therefore Deutchman’s multi-filmmaker project is especially interesting.

The relevance of the titular date, and this film, in present-day 2010, not yet even two years later, shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Obama is less than halfway through this term, and politics aside, no one has forgotten about the night in question. I personally was coming into Union Square just after 11pm when Obama was announced as the winner, and I can still remember all the cheering and horn-honking that brought people together, excited about the fact that an African-American man had been elected president (and many New York liberals likely pleased that a Democrat was now going to be in the Oval Office). I’m not alone in my recollections, and everyone should have their own memorable stories about the night of November 4, 2008.

What makes “11/4/08” so unique and intriguing is that Deutchman doesn’t only want to include the experiences of the filmmakers collected in the film. While the movie screened all around the country on October 20th and will be released on Video on Demand on October 22nd, it’s not a finished project. The film’s official website invites further contributions to the collection of footage, to continue to build what it bills as a “participatory documentary.” It’s unclear what the finished version of the film will look like, or if such an expectation is even reasonable regarding the film ever being finished. In the same way that Obama’s election signaled a major change, perhaps the way this film was and still is being made indicates an equally monumental revolution in the way films can be created.


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