I love the Fourth of July.
Last year at this time, I was racing against the clock to release my first feature documentary, FREE FOR ALL! One Dude's Quest to Save Democracy, which explores corrupt elections in Ohio and how citizens can fight voter suppression.
The film begins and concludes on the Fourth of July, and it was important to me to release the film on that day -- not just for timeliness, but because it would be months before the 2008 elections, giving people time to act.
Releasing your own film independently is extremely difficult, especially with no money. Even putting the whole movie online for free costs money, and then you have to get people to check it out, and pray they might donate, or order the DVD, or share the link.
And as struggling independent releases go, FREE FOR ALL! got great notice and amazing reactions from people across the country, as well as compelling critical praise. Roger friggin' Ebert called it "engrossing, even enraging...has a lot to say."
The group I helped found in FREE FOR ALL!, Video the Vote, saw its ranks flourish going into the 2008 election, and the concerted efforts of election protection activists nationwide could have arguably made the difference in any number of states. On election night, after weeks of touring and organizing throughout Ohio, I felt a massive weight lifted off my shoulders. My two and a half year mission to prevent a repeat of Ohio 2004 had come to an end.
And yet this Fourth of July, I am struck by how relevant many of the issues in FREE FOR ALL! still are:
From the American fallacy that election fraud is something that only happens in countries like Iran or the Ukraine, to the painfully protracted Senate race in Minnesota that no Democrat would ever be allowed to drag out like Norm Coleman did. From the aggressive conservative bluster against ACORN and census taking (code for voter disenfranchisement) to the unresolved questions about the death of the GOP IT guru Mike Connell in a fiery plane crash after the election in December.
And why the hell is Karl Rove still pompously pushing his party line like a preposterous pundit instead of answering questions in front of Congressional committees, or sharing a cell with some guy named Bruno?
Just because the black guy won in November doesn't mean election fraud, voter suppression, and systematic disenfranchisement is gone. As long as the Supreme Court chips away at the Voting Rights Act, as long as Congress ignores the election reform issues that have been on their desks for years, and as long as the Obama Administration prefers to avoid unpleasant topics like the prior occupants' crimes, the responsibility to maintain our democracy lies with We, the People.
This Fourth of July weekend, I invite you to watch FREE FOR ALL! for yourself, right here. Please share the film with others , and visit us at www.freeforall.tv and www.videothevote.org. This Independence Day, be proud of our democracy and celebrate what we as Americans are capable of.
FREE FOR ALL! (Part 1) (Part 2)
Follow John Wellington Ennis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/johnennis