Electoral Dysfunction

Directed by Leslie D. Farrell, Bennett Singer, and David Deschamps
Visit Film Site: electoraldysfunction.org
We are proud to announce Electoral Dysfunction is one of eight films selected for production support from The MacArthur Foundation.

Hosted by “Daily Show” veteran Mo Rocca, Electoral Dysfunction uses irreverent humor to show how voting works — and doesn’t work — in America. The film is slated for PBS broadcast in 2012 via presenting station WTTW; The New Press will publish a companion book. To view a trailer or learn more about the project, visit www.electoraldysfunction.org.

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With one of the most dramatic elections in U.S. history looming, Mo hits the road in the fall of 2008 to get a first-hand look at America’s election system. Mo’s quest leads him to Indiana, which has the strictest voting laws in the country. He meets two impassioned local activists—Republican Dee Dee Benkie of Versailles and Democrat Mike Marshall of North Vernon—who take him inside their efforts to turn out every vote. Dee Dee, a member of the Republican National Committee who worked in Karl Rove’s office at the White House, has met her match in Mike, a veteran political consultant who runs a “Democrat bar” in southern Indiana. Things heat up when the Republicans file a lawsuit challenging thousands of Democratic absentee ballots. As he progresses on his journey, Mo gets to know a former felon who mistakenly believed she was disenfranchised for life; attends the meeting of Indiana’s delegation to the Electoral College (an institution created, in part, to appease slaveholders); and encounters a range of activists, experts, election administrators and celebrities, along with some highly opinionated third graders, who offer commentary on how voting works—or doesn’t work—in America.

Woven throughout the film are sequences in which Mo meets reformers working to bring fairness and transparency to our election system. Among these reformers are organizers of the National Popular Vote Campaign, who have devised a plan to reform the Electoral College without a Constitutional amendment. Although this pragmatic measure — which would result in direct election of the President — has already passed in 31 state legislative chambers, it has received scant attention from the mainstream media. These stories carry the film into the future while giving viewers concrete steps they can take to help bring about change.

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Leslie D. Farrell is an Emmy, Peabody, and two-time duPont-Columbia Award-winning producer/director/writer. She has been making documentaries for more than 20 years. She served as Series Producer and Producer/Director of Episode 3 of AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES, a four-hour documentary series tracing Black history through genealogy and DNA science. The series, hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and featuring Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, and Whoopi Goldberg, aired nationally on PBS and was hailed by The New York Times as “the most exciting and stirring documentary on any subject to appear on television in a long time … exquisitely produced and brilliantly conceived.” Farrell is also known for documentaries she created for HBO, SPORTS ON THE SILVER SCREEN and JOURNEY OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN ATHLETE, both highly successful award-winning films. She began her career at Blackside, Inc. in Boston, where she directed, wrote, and produced BROTHER’S KEEPER as part of the acclaimed national PBS series AMERICA’S WAR ON POVERTY. In subsequent years, she continued making films for PBS, including THE CHALLENGE OF FREEDOM, which aired nationally as part of WNET’s landmark series SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA. Farrell’s work has also been seen on BRAVO, The History Channel, MTV, BET, NBC, and other national outlets.

Bennett Singer is an award-winning New York-based filmmaker/writer with 20 years of experience. His feature-length film BROTHER OUTSIDER: THE LIFE OF BAYARD RUSTIN premiered at Sundance, was broadcast nationally on PBS’ P.O.V. series, and went on to garner more than 25 international awards. It was shown at the Kennedy Center, the United Nations, The Department of Justice, and for members of Congress, as well as at more than 250 festivals and community screenings in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America; it has also been used by an array of social-justice organizations including Human Rights Watch, which has shown the film to more than 4,000 high school students. The film, which Singer co-directed with Nancy Kates, was selected to kick off the 2008 documentary season on LOGO/MTV. Singer worked for five years at Blackside, Inc. in Boston, where he was an Associate Producer on the Emmy- and Peabody-winning EYES ON THE PRIZE II and an editor of two books on civil rights history. He served as producer/director for WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE: THE RISE OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT and as producer for THE QUESTION OF EQUALITY, both broadcast on PBS. For eight years, he was executive editor of TIME Magazine’s education program, where he produced award-winning teaching materials for a variety of film and television projects, including HBO’s THE LARAMIE PROJECT, UNCHAINED MEMORIES, and JOHN ADAMS. A recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in video, Singer has served on the P.O.V. Editorial Committee, as a reader for ITVS’ Open Call, and as a juror for the Emmy Awards.

David Deschamps first conceived of the idea for a humorous documentary on America’s election system while serving as Senior Researcher for John Nichols’ JEWS FOR BUCHANAN (The New Press), an irreverent look at the election of 2000. He was a researcher for William Martin’s WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE: THE RISE OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT IN AMERICA (Broadway Books). A former staff writer for TIME Magazine’s Education Program, Deschamps has edited several political-science anthologies published by Pearson Prentice Hall, including a collection of readings on the 2004 presidential election. He studied film scoring at Berklee College of Music and is the co-director of WHAT I DID FOR LOVE, a forthcoming feature-length documentary on the joys and struggles that face musicians in America.

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