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Issue Date: April 2006 Issue

Knock the Vote

Erick Trickey

Filmmaker Laura Paglin's documentary "No Umbrella: Election Day in the City," set in Hough on the day of the 2004 presidential election, was screened at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival in January, as well as last month's Cleveland International Film Festival. It features candid footage of Cleveland city councilwoman Fannie Lewis and ex-Mayor Jane Campbell and portrays what happens at one urban polling station when activists work hard to get out the vote, but election officials don't adequately prepare for a big turnout. Or as Lewis puts it in the film: "We prayed for
rain and didn't bring no umbrellas." As you watch, you feel yourself wanting to be sympathetic to Paglin's message, but at times it's just too much of a stretch. Here's how we felt after viewing the film.


  Why We're Sympathetic To Why We're Not
The Movie Paglin is a local filmmaker who also made the big-hearted "Nightowls of Coventry." The movie's "action" is Lewis calling to demand more voting equipment, while voters stand in an hour-and-a-half line. It's only 26 minutes long but excruciating to watch.
Fannie Lewis She's trying to make it easier for people to vote, and she's right to be angry about the tardy response. When Lewis is confronted with actual voter intimidation - the only white guy in line angrily says another guy "told me to get out of line because my man's not going to win" she scolds the protesting guy for his "attitude."
Jane Campbell When the mayor arrives, she gets on the phone and asks the county for more voting equipment. When Lewis keeps complaining, Campbell grabs her by both shoulders and asks her to encourage people to stay in line. Instead of promising she'll keep calling until the equipment arrives, she tries to make everyone feel better: She moves the line into another room where people can sit down.
Laura Paglin She took on an important subject and filmed the movie herself with one camera and no crew. Paglin offers no perspective on what's gone wrong until the end, when she unfairly implies Secretary of State Ken Blackwell was to blame for long lines in minority neighborhoods. The county deploys voting machines, not the state.

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