Friday, February 6, 2009
So, who knew that Washington D.C. and a third grade class in Wuhan, China pretty much operate on identical levels when it comes to politics and election shenanigans?
This charming little documentary (58 minutes) should delight all parents, but will perhaps only engage some kids. I’d think those around the same age group as the students -- and a little older -- might enjoy Please Vote For Me, as it’s a straightforward look into the growing pains and heartbreak of schoolyard politics -- and what kid isn’t familiar with that, on some level? (Did this touch me in particular, as I remembered running -- and losing -- for Class President in the sixth grade? I got beat by a red haired, bullyish boy, and the pain was palpable, long after his coronation and even after I faded into the background, becoming a quiet, bell-bottomed, skinny girl with braces who never ran for anything again. That was the end of my political career. Who needed the agony?)
Um, back to the film (which I watched when K wasn’t around, unfortunately, so I can’t give you his take on it): Here we have a slightly mystifying and completely engaging documentary, focusing on three kids running in a democratic election for Third Grade Class Monitor, in the People’s Republic of China in 2006, when the country is clearly being torn in many different political and cultural directions and tentatively dipping its toe in the murky waters of democracy ... How and why did this film get made? Was it “sanctioned” by the government? Did they feel it portrayed the democratic process as a failure, as unfair, as being riddled with cruelty fueled by the darkest and most deceptive motivations inherent in the human psyche?
Aren’t we awful, us democratic societies?
Or, is the filmmaker a secret lover of democratic principles, and camouflaged the obvious upside to the process with the downside (Machiavellian scheming, corruption, temper tantrums) to allow it to pass Party scrutiny?
Ok, I’m really not smart enough, or deep enough, to provide you with answers here. You can read more about the film and filmmaker as part of the project, Why Democracy, on their web site (and find more interesting films while you’re at it), and perhaps put things in context a bit more before you watch.
But it was fascinating -- both as a parent and as an avid consumer of political drama -- to observe these adorable, smart, driven kids, doing whatever it takes to win. (I confess, it was fascinating in that car wreck sort of way, where you don’t want to watch, but you can’t stop. And it’s not nearly as heartbreaking as some documentaries [speaking of the human psyche, good God, have you seen Errol Morris’ Abu Ghraib documentary, Standard Operating Procedure?], and it does remind us, perhaps unpleasantly, that kids are much, much smarter than we often give them credit for. Some of ‘em are sharks, I tell you.)
Conclusion: Score one for democracy -- I think.