With the 2020 elections on the horizon and dominating the news cycle, it is a great time to engage with media that focus on various aspects of electoral politics. Here are three documentary films, available for free with your library card to stream on Kanopy, that tell specific lesser-known election stories from the United States and from outside of it. Whether you are looking to be inspired, entertained, or simply learn something new about political history, these documentaries will hopefully get you in the right mood to vote this November.
Nat Bates for Mayor
This documentary video project, focusing as per its subtitle on “corporate influence on local politics,” focuses on the
2014 mayoral race in Richmond, CA, which was an insane political invent featuring more than $3 million dollars of corporate investment from an oil company, intense fights over gentrification and racial politics, and angry white environmentalists. The movie also features some crazy political characters that make it both an entertaining experience and an informative look at a race which sat at the eye of a storm of intersecting political and social issues. A little over an hour long, it is not too time consuming and definitely leaves the audience with some great questions about morality and truth in the “game” of electoral politics.
The Suffragists: Political Struggles for Women in Mexico
Turning the focus towards elections outside of the United States, this 80 minute film from 2012 documents the political life of Eufrosina Cruz, an indigenous woman fighting for political power in Oaxaca, Mexico. While the filmmaker Ana Cruz focuses specifically on her career, she also uses it as an opportunity to inform viewers of the longer context of women’s political struggles in Mexico beginning with the Revolutionary period. The film is a Spanish language documentary, but it is available with English captions for non-Spanish speakers.
Chisolm ’72: Unbound and Unbossed
This 2004 documentary, from filmmaker Shola Lynch, tells the story of Shirley Chisolm’s historic 1972 campaign for President of the United States – the first Black woman to ever attempt a run at this office. Chisolm was already known as the first Black Congresswoman and faced intense discrimination from the media, the political establishment, and members of her own political party. Despite this, her campaign made a point to remain decidedly progressive, and championed social justice issues and sought to represent the struggles of many marginalized groups – including women, people of color, and people in the LGBTQ community. This documentary is a must-watch for anyone who is yet unfamiliar with Chisolm’s campaign or with the woman herself as a historical figure.
~ Hannah P.