11/8/16

Here is a documentary that seems specifically curated to invoke a reaction. The immediate reaction, of course, will be that it's too soon to open the can of worms that was the 2016 Presidential election. It isn't merely that the less-expected, least-desired outcome actually happened. It's that the conspiratorial bouquet of the election, one year removed from the event itself, means that 11/8/16 lives entirely in a naive sort of hindsight beyond its control. It isn't the fault of the film that the candidate who seemed unqualified was elected, but all the concerns leading up to the election have passed. The election happened. It seemed to swing in one direction, and it went in the other.

This is the reality. The numb disbelief on the part of those who wanted what they saw as the obviously better option set in a long time ago. This film seeks to examine the emotions felt by a couple handfuls of people in the twenty or so hours leading up to a particularly contentious vote after a year and a half of nervous energy. Both candidates were (and still, at the time of this writing, are) subjects of controversy leading up to that vote. The question for voters, then, was whether each point of controversy plaguing the candidates was important enough for them to consider the farther-reaching implications of their vote.

There was Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady to President Bill Clinton and the Secretary of State under Barack Obama, whose campaign to become the first woman President of the United States - an obvious sign of progress in a country still trying to learn the benefits of progressing - was marred by a perception of corruption underlined by an illegal hack of the Democratic National Committee, apparently to swing things in her favor within her own political party, and the aftermath of questionable handling of the September 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya. For those who have chosen to vote for her, it is a question of the qualifications she holds after years of public service.

There was Donald Trump, the billionaire, business mogul, and television personality, whose campaign was fraught with charges of phoniness (His billionaire status was called into question, and his eponymous company's various bankruptcy declarations were a favorite callback on the part of the media), cronyism (His claim to "drain the swamp" of Washington's self-serving politicians included hiring the exact people who would populate the swamp), and illicit behavior (rape charges for which he would have appeared in court and leaked video in which he brags about attempted sexual harassment to another television personality).

Trump was, for all intents and purposes, an unqualifiable Presidential candidate, yet the impossible seemed to happen: He was elected President on the date of the title after a homestretch in the voting process that seemed to indicate a victory for Clinton. The film's theoretical accomplishment is to document the range of reactions to the surprise Trump victory. In reality, all that is done by the film's team of 18 directors is a broad generalization of each side of the voters and a general sort of outrage that the "right" side didn't prevail. It's hardly a fair analysis, and it would seem to be one by the methods used in its approach.

We follow, sometimes quite literally in terms of camera movement and placement, the varying people - from a Millennial woman in her early thirties, carrying signs and hoping for a victory by Clinton, to a father who works in the coal industry and is comforted by the promises of the Trump campaign to fight for him - who fall within demographics neither explored nor even considered. The candid conversations between members of both demographics seem staged, such as a confrontation between mothers who are voting for Trump and Evan McMullin (an Independent candidate who didn't concede until the very end) that still somehow becomes about the differences between Trump and Obama and between a husband and wife who view Trump's legal woes with two sides of the same coin of indifference to a pleasant haircut between Trump and Clinton voters who can barely veil each one's despair toward the other. 11/8/16 seems to evade insight in an active way that is both frustrating and irresponsible.

Film Information

A documentary directed by Duane Andersen, Don Argott, Yung Chang, Garth Donovan, Petra Epperlein, Vikram Gandhi, Raul Gasteazoro, J. Goncalves, Andrew Grace, Alma Har'el, Sheena M. Joyce, Daniel Junge, Alison Klayman, Ciara Lacy, Martha Shane, Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Bassam Tariq, and Michael Tucker.

No MPAA rating.

104 minutes.

Released in select cities on November 3, 2017.

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