"Gerrymandering," a new documentary about the fine art of redrawing voting districts so as to create an advantage for one candidate over another, is a surprisingly entertaining look at what could be a crushing bore.
The film, written and directed by Jeff Reichert, a former senior VP at Magnolia Pictures, is refreshingly nonpartisan in presenting its case, pointing the finger at pols on both sides of the aisle, decrying a practice that effectively disenfranchises people on the basis of party or race.
Across most of America, the people responsible for drawing the maps that define voting districts work hand-in-hand with the incumbents serving those very same areas. For some 200 years American politicians have been using this power to tilt the odds in favor of their ideological brethren.
Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause, spearheaded the campaign in 2008 to pass Proposition 11, which sought to reform the state's redistricting laws, putting the power in the hands of citizens.
Using the campaign for Prop. 11, which had the support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as its frame, "Gerrymandering" explores the issue through dozens of interviews.
The release of "Gerrymandering" is timely as Americans are currently being bombarded with reminders urging them to fill out their census forms, the tallies of which are tied directly to redistricting.
Reichert not only manages to keep things light -- no mean feat for a topic that can devolve into wonkery -- he even builds suspense, as Prop. 11's day of reckoning draws near, a story that was lost amid the furor of Prop. 8 on gay marriage.
"Gerrymandering" is playing at the Tribeca Film Festival April 27, 28 & 30, and May 1