The Nominees: Documentaries

“When the camera was getting grabbed, I thought it was ruining the film,” Curry says of certain thugs. “Only later did I see how to use this.” And that’s how he came to write “Street Fight.”

The fast-moving, insightful film centers on the 2002 race for mayor of Newark, N.J., in which a bright, youthful challenger named Cory Booker took on the hardnosed, brass-knuckled four-term incumbent, Sharpe James. The fact that both are African-American became a key issue for James, who claimed Booker was a white Republican in black Democrat’s clothing.

It’s noteworthy that Curry was able to make the film at all: In the end, James not only refused to be interviewed but he actively tried to upend the entire film.

“It was very dispiriting,” Curry recalls. “How can you make a film about an election with only one candidate?” His solution: “I’m the guy with the camera, and this is the experience I had. Once I did that, it made it much easier to convey information. I love cinema verite a lot, but in writing the film I found a different way to go.”

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