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Movie review: 'Gerrymandering'

October 15, 2010|By Gary Goldstein

Writer-director Jeff Reichert gives an arcane political practice a wonky, one-sided close-up in his documentary "Gerrymandering," which refers to the calculated form of congressional redistricting by elected representatives that follows each decade's Census. It's an important if unsexy topic that Reichert attempts to energize with some OK animation and a raft of comments from politicians, legal experts and advocacy group leaders. (One pundit here, clearly reflecting the filmmaker's stance, deems gerrymandering, a term coined in 1812 after the redistricting actions of then-Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry, "the most effective form of manipulating elections short of outright fraud.")

The movie illustrates how the process skews and literally reshapes elections, often favoring incumbents and majority party candidates, by examining recent redistricting examples in such states as Florida, Texas, Louisiana and New York. But it's California that takes center stage as Reichert revisits the state's 2008 Proposition 11 fight to establish a bipartisan commission to draw district boundaries.

Despite much archival and news footage, along with ample face time from that initiative's most ebullient supporter, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the contest lacks the kind of inherent drama and tension that could have helped quicken the movie's measured pulse.

On the other hand, maybe the whole topic is just too esoteric to warrant feature-length dissection without a craftier firebrand like Michael Moore at the helm.

"Gerrymandering." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes. Playing at Landmark's Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles.

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