Before hitting play on Slay the Dragon, make sure you’re a good social distance away from Grandma’s fine china.
Because you’re going to want to break something.
Directors Chris Durrance and Barak Goodman open their deep dive into political gerrymandering with a quote from Founding Father John Adams about democracies and suicide. They then spend almost two hours making the case that time is running short for America to prove Adams wrong.
The film’s historical context of gerrymandering – or drawing Congressional districts in a hyper-partisan manner – is informative and even entertaining in spots. Who knew the practice got its name from pairing an old Massachusetts governor with a salamander?
But once it digs into the deep pockets and advanced metrics behind “packing,” “stacking” and “bleaching,” the film’s view that this a fight between voters picking winners and winners picking voters does not seem hyperbolic.
The direct, measured approach pushes hardest when reminding us that new district maps are drawn every ten years, so elections in a year that ends in zero – LIKE THIS YEAR – are especially important.
But to make their film a rallying cry for passionate turnout, Durrance and Goodman know that beneath the dirty tricks, blatant hypocrisy, systemic oppression, corporate greed and Supreme Court setbacks, there has to be hope.
We get it via Katie Fahey and Voters Not Politicians, a grassroots movement fighting gerrymandering in Michigan that began with a Facebook post. Fahey, a total neophyte diving into vicious waters, is instantly relatable and easy to root for, creating a narrative contrast that’s a bit simplistic but naturally effective.
It does get a bit long-winded in spots, but Slay the Dragon makes its case with enough info, passion and persistence to make it necessary, especially in a year that ends in zero.
Like this year. 2020. An election year.
Did we mention that?