'm going to start this
with a sales pitch: you need to
buy this film. No, really. Not because Greg Palast receives
second billing but because you must see this film.
is the kind of documentary that only comes along every few
years. It's the sort of film that changes things -- changes how
you think. If there was any justice in this world this film
would receive the same buzz and box office that anything that
Michael Moore releases gets. Greg Palast told me the film "blew
him away" -- this from a man who is almost always underwhelmed
by documentaries, especially ones about his field of expertise.
When delving into
the voter issue, the media distracts you with all the things it
loves to talk about. But you need to forget the hanging chads
and forget the malfunctioning machines. They're just a sideshow
to the real story. The real story is a lot less sexy, dealing
with road blocks, purged voters, 'misplaced' voting machines,
uncounted ballots and long lines. This is the Civil Rights
Movement all over again but this time there are no great
monsters like Bull Connor. The lynchings today are electronic
and political... and the freedom riders nowhere to be found.
Guerrilla News Network's Ian Inaba uses a stunning mix of
never before seen archive and firsthand interviews. Inaba knows
how to make otherwise dull C-Span clips look like something
completely new and interesting. He does this by split-screen and
zooming so you know who you're supposed to be looking at --
Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, ChoicePoint representatives. You see
them lying to a Civil Rights panel, you see them sweat when
questioned by Congresswoman McKinney. All I can say is that I am
stunned that I've never seen this technique used before -- it
keeps you interested, on your toes and wanting for more. Yes,
you will be wanting to see more of this documentary, these 90
minutes fly past quickly. So do take notes -- there will be a
test afterwards -- the 2006 election.
Among the great footage in this documentary is a pan shot of
lines of people waiting to vote -- I saw this once before, when
I was 13 and apartheid came to an end. South Africa held its
first free election and Black voters could be seen in lines that
went on for miles. But this is America, we are not a
developing democracy and should long have emerged from
the dark ages of electoral segregation.
The story of
that sews the running thread through the film, is uglier than
even I knew. Many only familiar with the Congresswoman's press
coverage will be aghast at just how distorted a picture the
media has fed us.
It literally defies belief.
Here we see her
cross-examining Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with such
surgical precision and grasp of her brief that Rumsfeld is left
stammering and ashen-faced. It makes us wonder what kind of
country we might have right now if more had put this
administration under such factual scrutiny. American Blackout
lays out exactly why she has been so relentlessly hounded. Every
one of her speeches brings to mind the hoarse pleas of Jimmy
Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, a force to be reckoned
with. (In the DVD extras you can watch "Capitol Policeman Speaks
Out" and see why she "lost it" back in March 2006.)
Inaba's film is
intense yet easy to grasp for even the most non-political among
And for those who
can't sit in one place for too long, the DVD comes with a
shortened version which still gets the point across in under 20
Since I started
with a sales pitch it only seems right to end with one: Remember
when in the days after 9/11 our president told us to go out and
shop? Do the patriotic thing and buy this DVD. In fact I would
buy several: you are going to want to pass this one
around your friends and chances are you're not going to get it
Buy it directly at
American Blackout website. We get nothing from these sales
except the knowledge that we are supporting one kick-ass
filmmaker with a gotta-see-it call to arms against the racial
poisoning of our democracy.
donate a tax-deductible $50 or more to our educational
foundation and Palast will send you a
signed copy of American Blackout. All proceeds support the
investigative work of the Palast team.
indictment" (LA TIMES) and "engrossing, fast-paced, stylish... a
powerful examination of voting rights in America." (HOLLYWOOD
Leni von Eckardt
contributed to this article.
Greg Palast is a
reporter for BBC Television and the author of the just-released
New York Times Bestseller,
Armed Madhouse: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats
Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left and
other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War.
Read his articles and watch his reports at: