Doc draws districting drama
'Gerrymandering' aims to spur political reformJeff Reichert, who left his post as senior vp at Magnolia Pictures in October, is directing the documentary "Gerrymandering," an examination of political redistricting that is being executive produced by Bill Mundell, a leader in the redistricting reform movement.
The film is one of three docs being backed by New York-based Green Film Co., founded last year by indie producers Dan O'Meara and Chris Romano to make films covering a range of social issues. In addition to "Gerrymandering," Green is financing the untitled documentary about Barack Obama, directed by Amy Rice and Alicia Sams, that will air on HBO. It also has partnered with Chad Troutwine to produce "Freakonomics," a doc based on the Steven Levitt/Stephen Dubner best-seller that is being directed by several different filmmakers, including Morgan Spurlock and Alex Gibney.
Reichert became interested in the topic during the Texas congressional redistricting of 2003, which was appealed to the Supreme Court -- "It was a great piece of political theater," he said -- but he decided to aim for a broader canvas in the film than just Texas.
He already has shot 90 hours, including footage of the successful Proposition 11 campaign in California, which was supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He is shooting footage in other states and envisions treating each state as if it were a different genre, viewing California in cinema verite style, for example, and Florida as a courtroom drama, Texas as a heist tale and Louisiana as a disaster movie.
Early in his research, Reichert was introduced to Mundell, an educational entrepreneur who spearheaded the campaign on behalf of the unsuccessful 2005 California redistricting measure, Proposition 77. Reichert agreed to provide some of the financing, joining the project as exec producer.
"Making a popular movie has historically been a good way to create impetus for change," Mundell said, citing such examples as "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Sicko." "My motivation was never to get into the film business but to tell a story that wasn't getting told and to tell it in a way that unites people of different political philosophies."
Reichert said he hopes to finish the film by fall 2009 with an eye toward a 2010 release, which in turn could affect the next round of congressional redistricting in 2011. "People are going to be put on notice," Mundell said, "that this is no longer something that can be swept under the carpet."