Documentary of the Day – Street Fight
February 7, 2012 Leave a comment
I really feel like I say the same thing over and over again about politics in America. It’s a crap shoot of dirty and devious mud slinging and a constant divide of the nation. Nothing really gets done and if you are a young upstart with new ideas, you will quickly be trampled by those already in the position of power. It sound glum but there is a bit of truth to it all. Sometimes though, if you want to make it in this world, you have to fight for it. Street Fight is true representation of what the political life is life for someone running for office. While not the seat of President, but a mayor position, can even be more daunting than the highest seat of power in politics.
Academy Award nominated documentary, “Street Fight”, follows the bloody-knuckles race for mayor of Newark, N.J. between 32-year-old Cory Booker and four-term incumbent, Sharpe James. An urban David and Goliath story, the film chronicles the young man’s struggle against the city’s entrenched political machine, which routinely uses strong-arm tactics to hold onto power. The battle sheds light on important questions about democracy, power, poverty and race. When the mayor accuses the Ivy League-educated challenger of not being “really black,” the campaign forces voters to examine how we define race in America. Directed by Marshall Curry. For more info see www.StreetFightFilm.com
Good luck to people that aim to serve the public in the political office, cause after watching this documentary, it is not something to be taken lightly. Street Fight sheds the ugly light on what people will do in order to trounce their competition. It isn’t just smearing the campaign, but smearing the person and their life. Booker upbringing, education, and even his “blackness” is called into question by an incumbent Mayor who will use everything at his disposal to put his competitor under his heel. It’s a dirty game that turns the issues that matter to the state into the third wheel in the crusade to deface the opponent.
I can’t honestly say that what we see is shocking, maybe the absolute abuse of power in sending cops out to stop campaign efforts and fundraising is a bit more shocking. The tactics that cause the most head scratching is the issue of race, which is odd since both opponents are African-American Democrats. Booker went and got an Ivy League education, but he is chided as being a whitey for the education he got. He is attacked as not being black enough, which seems to be the point of the election. It divides the city and turns others against one another. The question of race and blackness just seems so outrageous, but the people that follow Sharpe are eating it up. While that becomes the focal point of the election, Booker is just shown to beaten down by a barrage of unfortunate and illegal tactics that aim to further Sharpe’s hold and diminish the efforts of Booker’s campaigning.
In some ways, Street Fight is a look at a local level, what it means to be in a political dogfight. You would think the issues of the state matter the most, but it seems people just want to be behind the candidate that is a winner in their eyes. The scariest thing about this is how cavalier Sharpe is about using his power to essentially destroy the efforts and lives of those who speak out against him, even to the point where Federal watchers had to be brought in to monitor the campaign and election. It’s a street fight alright, one that makes you pay closer attention to how politics is conducted and question the democratic process of elections. Will you get swept up in the bashing and fervor, or will you educate yourself about what matters?
The interesting thing to close out the post is that this was never intended to be a documentary that was about helping the Booker campaign. It was supposed to be about a political race that was heated and had a lot at stake. Sure the director is a supporter of Booker, one that he came out and said in interviews, but what happens in front of the camera is the real deal. He didn’t need to make a documentary that helped Booker, the Sharpe campaign did the job for him.
*images source (streetfightfilm.com)