Director: Marshall Curry
Topic: A story of racial politics and political intimidation, in which 32-year-old Cory Booker, a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School grad, runs for mayor of Newark, N.J., against four-term incumbent Sharpe James.
Financig: Self-financed by filmmaker; finishing funds provided by the Corp. for Public Broadcasting through ITVS and “P.O.V.”
Budget: Under $200,000, not including salaries
Shooting format: Sony PD-150 DV camera
Why it stands out: Shines a spotlight on black political leadership in America, and tells the universal story of a voice for change challenging the established order; raises questions about the political power of a persistent lie.
Memorable scene: After James calls Booker, who is African-American and a Baptist, “white” and “Jewish” in an effort to discredit him, Booker campaign workers discuss prejudice and paradox within the black community: “We ask our children to get educated, and when they do, we call them ‘white.’ “
Distribution/broadcast status: Pic screened at 26 Landmark Theaters around the country; currently in talks with several companies for further distribution; Broadcast debut July 5 on PBS’ “P.O.V.”
On making the film: Curry first became aware of Mayor James while in college, working on a literacy project in Newark. Years later, he met Booker at a mayoral campaign fund-raiser. Says Curry, “With two such compelling characters and the election providing the perfect story arc, I knew something interesting was bound to happen.” Curry was fascinated by a new generation of African-Americans that was beginning to challenge civil-rights veterans. “This younger generation has experiences and opportunities the previous generation didn’t have. I was curious how that would affect who they are and what their positions were.”
What Curry did not expect was to be drawn into the story himself, as he became a victim of the James’ campaign’s intimidation tactics. “I was surprised at how brazen Sharpe James and the police that worked with him would be,” he says. “It never occurred to me that they would take a cameraman like me and publicly throw him out. People have been shocked to see just how dirty an election can get.”