(director: Chris Durrance, Barak Goodman;  cinematographer: Samuel Russell; editor: Seth Bomse; music: Gary Lionelli; cast:  Katie Fahey,  Chris Janowski; Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Barak Goodman, Chris Durrrance; Magnolia Pictures; 2019)

“If you’re a political junkie, this is a must see film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Barak Goodman (“Oklahoma City”) and Chris Durrance (“Gerald R. Ford: A Test of Character”) are co-directors of this relevant activist investigative political film that tells us what went wrong with gerrymanding (the drawing up of legislative district boundaries in favor of the governing political party). Though  gerrymanding’s horrible results our commonly known today, with the Republicans succeeding in getting elected so many right-wing supporters, yet the film is still more informative than that by exploring many things that are not commonly known about that unethical process and offering solutions to fix the broken process.

Slay The Dragon acknowledges that both parties in the past have used gerrymanding for their political purposes.

It might be of interest to know that gerrymanding took its name from the 1810 Elbridge Gerry, the Massachusetts governor, a member of the Democratic-Republican party, whose state legislature branch created new senate districts which he approved. But he would be shocked to find out how unscrupulous modern day politicians used his innocent way of redrawing senate districts that are now used as a means to subvert the democratic process.

If you’re a political junkie, this is a must see film. If you’re just an apolitical citizen, the information is still invaluable.

The film for starters explores the Flint water crisis, which killed a dozen people and exposed the mostly black citizens to lead poisoning. The filmmakers tell us the unclean water is a direct result of the policies undertaken by the politically motivated Republican lawmakers in the state legislature, who had no fear of public retaliation after having redrawn districts so that it was unlikely for them to be voted out of office. These nefarious politicians put into place harmful public policies without citizen input, a practice that goes against the heart of a democracy.

In response, the political newcomer, Katie Fahey, featured in the film as one of the good guys, organized a group called Voters Not Politicians and held town halls and mapped-out nonpartisan ways of drawing the state’s legislative districts.

What the filmmakers wish to get across and successfully do, is the urgency of the cause that the VNP is fighting for. It lets on how racist Republicans were in their gerrymanding and how in a panic they were when the 2008 election of Barack Obama made them fearful to confront America’s changing demographics.

There are revealing interviews with Republican party honcho Chris Jankowski, who formed the secretive REDMAP project, which was a way to guarantee the election of his conservative extremist choices after redistricting process went into effect after the census. Also noteworthy is that his candidates received generous donations from places like–Walmart, Big Tobacco and the Koch brothers.

Though pessimistic about the future, Goodman and Durrance were at least hopeful that various citizen groups will launch ballot initiatives or sue their states directly over maps designed to make their votes pointless. The filmmakers believe the American people, when informed, will exercise the rights they have in a democracy and pressure the courts to rule in favor of a standardized, equitable process because things have become so unfair. In other words, they believe in the democratic process prevailing and believe it can work better when these serious problems are fixed through the efforts of a concerned citizenry.

Slay the Dragon

REVIEWED ON 4/6/2020  GRADE: B +