For anyone who voted for Barack Obama, watching “11/4/08” is like looking at your wedding album at a time when your marriage isn’t going so well. With all the hope-and-change hysteria that led up to the election, Americans today are short on hope and seeing even less change. Maybe all that excitement was less about the start of the Obama era than the end of George W. Bush’s – remember, this guy was so unpopular that, when the time came to set up the Republican National Convention, he wasn’t even able to get on the seating chart.
Those who’ve lost hope might look at “11/4/08” as a naïve reference point, but it works much better if you approach it on its own terms – as a closed system that deals with one specific day when America chose its next leader, “11/4/08” does a decent job of reminding everyone what all the fuss was about. While it’s not easy to build suspense around common knowledge, the urgency we felt all the way up to Obama’s victory speech manages to hold up two years later, even if there’s only enough to carry a 70-minute documentary. Not even “Jackass 3D” can wrap things up that fast.
Among the film’s most significant accomplishments is how it balances out the grandeur of the whole thing with the intimacy of user-created content. Filmmaker Jeff Deutchman dropped some friends a line on Facebook and asked them to record the goings-on that day, then picked out the highlights and combined them into the whole.
Deutchman used footage from around the world (he has friends everywhere from New York and Chicago to Berlin and Dubai), and for as neat as it is to see so many people share the same spirit, what’s really amazing is how “11/4/08” creates tension with time.
The electricity in the air when morning breaks builds as day makes its way into night, when people huddle around TVs and radios and hang on every development that comes in. Though some are just tuning in to stay in the loop, the moment carries more weight for others, who sense America’s fate hanging in the balance.
I remember covering a story that day about a make-believe election in Prospect Park, where kids could mark their little ballots and turn them in. After the dust settled and it was time for the parents to take them home, the results revealed what kind of leader they wanted: Obama got 66 votes; John McCain got eight.
This article originally appeared on AllMediaNy.com
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