Two weeks before the 2008 U.S. Presidential Elections, filmmaker Jeff Deutchman asked filmmaking friends from around the world to help document the historical events of November 4, 2008 and record the election of the first black President of the United States, Barack Obama. While not exactly like political docs Iraq in Fragments, No End in Sight and Taxi to the Dark Side, 11/4/08 threatens to follow in their lead, attracting audiences with previous interest in the subject instead of attracting new eyes. Cinetic FilmBuff screens the film in over 20 cities October 20 with additional showings in New York City and Honolulu just prior to its VOD release. Theatrical earnings from these special screenings will be understandably modest. With its interactive website 11-4-08.com generating enthusiastic word of mouth among its followers, 11/4/08 should attract a larger audience of liberal film fans during its extended VOD run.
Over 30 filmmakers including Henry Joost (Catfish), Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths), Joe Swanberg (Alexander the Last) and Benh Zeitlin (Glory At Sea) answered Deutchman's call for footage and contributed short films of varying styles, shot in major cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Austin, Paris, Dubai and Berlin. Deutchman received their one-day footage over the several months following the 2008 elections and edited their contributions to the often beautiful but somewhat superficial 11/4/08.
Two years later, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama return to the campaign trail to address large rallies in Madison, WI and Columbus, OH to inspire first-time voters from 2008 to return to the polls this year. Deutchman's omnibus doc 11/4/08 exits its festival run and returns to select arthouse theaters as an inspirational reminder to liberal-oriented film buffs of the importance of November 4, 2008, and why one should work to keep the spirit of political inclusiveness alive.
Deutchman, who also filmed 11/08 footage in New York City, calls himself a "curator" instead of a director, as he commissioned footage and constructed something out of it. With this in mind, it's worth noting that as a student Deutchman studied cinema that challenged the Auteur Theory (whereby films are said to primarily transmit the vision of one "author") and with 11/4/08 he goes on to "curate" a film that flies in the face of the all auteurist notions.
Unlike Robert Drew's classic campaign documentary Primary, which follows Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie at campaign stops in Milwaukee during the pivotal 1960 Wisconsin primary, Deutchman makes 11/4/08 a global sampler of different people, places and opinions regarding the impending election of Barack Obama.
Some segments sparkle brighter than others, especially scenes shot by Joe and Kris Swanberg of campaign workers in Portage, Indiana and Benh Zeitlin's gliding camerawork as he bicycles through the streets of New Orleans.
More a collection of cinematic snapshots due to Deutchman's comprehensive goals for the film, there are numerous times when one wishes the camera would remain on one of its many fascinating subjects and tell a more in-depth story.
After premiering at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival and playing festivals in Traverse City, Indianapolis and Sarasota, 11/4/08 moves past the festival bubble with its brief theatrical run and, more importantly, its interactive website 11-4-08.com that provides even more 2008 election day footage.
Thanks to its ambitious website, the 11/4/08 experiment has no clear ending, which might be Deutchman's greatest achievement here: this is a movie that turns into social media after the closing credits roll.
Distributor: Cinetic FilmBuff
Directors: Jeff Deutchman, Joe Swanberg, Kris Swanberg, Benh Zeitlin, Margaret Brown and Henry Joost
Producers: Jeff Deutchman and Natalie Difford
Running time: 70 min
Release Date: October 20 ltd.