American Blackout

Greg Palast

Greg Palast is a key commentator in the new Guerilla News Network (GNN) film, American Blackout, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival this week. Palast also introduced GNN to the Cynthia McKinney story, which the film is based on and which appears in GNN’s book, True Lies.

By Sura Wood

PARK CITY “American Blackout,” an engrossing, low-budget documentary, is a powerful examination of voting rights in America. The filmmakers intend to use the film as a political tool to galvanize voters. Director Ian Inaba, who is part of Guerilla News Network, an organization that covers stories the mainstream media overlooks, focuses on the disturbing incidents of voter disenfranchisement among African-Americans, who traditionally vote democratic.

The jumping off point is the 2000 presidential election results in Florida, where many blacks were turned away at the polls. Given the saturation coverage of that election and the fight over the Florida vote count, making this material compelling once again would appear to an impossible feat but Inaba does it.

He explores the history of the black vote by following the ups and downs of the Democratic congresswoman from Georgia, Cynthia McKinney, an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration, whose early stand against the Iraq War cost her a re-election bid. More to the point, McKinney was leading an investigation into the 2000 election voting irregularities.

Well structured and fast paced, the film uses news footage, interviews with voters and congressional leaders, poignant images of Ohio voters standing for hours in the rain, only to be told it was too late to vote. Inaba adds stylish touches such as a split screen where different voters speak out from banked monitors. Congressman John Lewis and a few others are shot against a white background to dramatic effect.

McKinney’s passion is infectious but her stance had made her a target for the opposition. One of the beauties of “American Blackout” is that even if viewers don’t share her politics, what was done to McKinney in an effort to unseat her, is so mean spirited and unfair, it would be difficult not to be moved by her against-all-odds return to Congress.

Stay tuned to GregPalast.com for more information on the release of American Blackout You can also visit American Blackout’s website.