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“Slay The Dragon” Expounds On The Dangers Of Gerrymandering

There are few more insidious and less democratic tools in the political toolbox than gerrymandering. The concept of essentially fixing an election to assure you win/your party stays in power indefinitely is inherently against what the United States is meant to stand for. The dangerous nature of gerrymandering, as well as what can potentially do to be done about it, is the concept behind the new documentary Slay the Dragon. Taking a sobering yet ultimately hopeful approach, this doc manages to hammer home the urgency of the matter while never making it feel like a lost cause to fight against. In doing so, it separates itself from the non-fiction pack currently available.

The documentary is a look at how the past decade has made gerrymandering a bigger issue than ever before. For those in need of a definition, gerrymandering is the manipulation of a voting body, by a political party, in order to ensure victory. In short, Republicans, for example, can rejigger the districts in a state to ensure that they win elections. It’s the candidates/elected officials choosing their voters, as opposed to the voters choosing their elected officials. About ten years ago, an advanced and technologically precise effort was launched to re-draw the political map. This was done to favor Conservatives, though Liberals have been guilty of this as well. The history of gerrymandering, including the person it’s named for, is discussed, as well as what can ultimately be done to combat it. In particular, the focus is on the everyday men and women who are rising up to oppose the tactic. It’s a pointed approach, one that isn’t quite optimistic, but one that stresses how this is a fight that needs to be had (and won) right now. Chris Durrance and Barak Goodman co-direct, with music by Gary Lionelli. Fabrizio Costantini and Sam Russell handle the cinematography.

Especially in an election season, being knowledgeable about gerrymandering and lucid about what can be done is essential. This film makes no allusions to the danger at hand. If left to continue, regardless of which party is in control, there’s no doubt that the manipulation of the system will never end. The only downside for the politicians and overall political machine rests in if the people rise up to forbid it from happening. Apathy is their ally and an important tool. Throughout the documentary, we see examples of how this plan unfolded over years, operating both in the shadows as well as in public view. It’s fairly terrifying to witness.

Slay the Dragon won’t provide much new information for anyone who’s particularly on the politically savvy side, but it’s a well made call to action. Filmmakers Chris Durrance and Barak Goodman clearly set the stakes. The doc could easily be something you saw on CNN or MSNBC, just with a bit more of a theatrical styling to it. That’s not a critique, either, as it hammers home just how important this all is. It’s about information and inspiration, not entertainment. Too much rides on actual change to waste time trying to tickle your fancy on a surface level.

Now playing, Slay the Dragon isn’t the happiest of VOD options, but it’s an essential one for anyone wanting to be engaged by politics. This is the rare issue that voters of all stripes should be united against. The documentary makes that clear, no matter where you reside on the political spectrum. Give the movie a look and if it doesn’t enrage you, you’re likely doing something wrong…

Be sure to check out Slay the Dragon, available On Demand now!

(Photos courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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