"American Blackout"

September 22, 2006
MOVIE REVIEW | ‘AMERICAN BLACKOUT’

Anger and Irregularities at the Voting Booth

By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS

Few things in a democracy are more sacrosanct than the right to vote, and in his furious documentary “American Blackout,” Ian Inaba assembles compelling evidence to support his claim that African-Americans – who are traditionally more likely to vote Democratic – are being deliberately and systematically excluded from the political process.

Interviewing Congressional leaders, journalists and regular voters, Mr. Inaba begins by addressing the Florida debacle of 2000, arguing that behind the exhaustive coverage of hanging chads and faulty voting machines lies an underreported and more complex story of black disenfranchisement. In a strong middle section, the movie examines the political troubles of Representative Cynthia McKinney, a vocal critic of the Bush administration, suggesting that her ouster in 2002 was engineered by Republican crossover voting. A particularly powerful segment shows how at least one of Ms. McKinney’s statements about the Sept. 11 attacks was edited by some commentators to appear infinitely less reasonable than the original.

By the time we reach the 2004 general election, the anger in “American Blackout” is palpable. As we listen to voters complain about roadblocks and false felony records, and watch the endless lines of black voters standing patiently in the rain in Ohio, it’s impossible to ignore the gravity of the film’s claims. Though occasionally inflammatory – one interviewee talks about being “slingshotted into slavery” – “American Blackout” isn’t a conspiracy rant. It’s a methodical compilation of questions and irregularities that deserves a wider audience.

AMERICAN BLACKOUT

Opens today in Manhattan.

Directed by Ian Inaba; edited by Liz Canning, Jean-Philippe Boucicaut and Mr. Inaba; music by DJ Shadow, Soulsavers, Thievery Corporation, Mark Batson and Michael Bearden; produced by Anastasia King. At the Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, Greenwich Village. Running time: 92 minutes. This film is not rated.

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