American Blackout is an interesting documentary which highlights the suppression of black voters in the United States and follows the career of the outspoken Democrat politician Cynthia McKinney. Focusing on the last four elections the suppression of black voters and the smear campaign against McKinney by the Republican Bush administration is clearly explained through interviews and documentary evidence. This is an important and frightening film which brings the democratic nature of the United States into serious doubt.
Directed by Ian Inaba, a member of the excellent Guerrilla News Network, this low-budget documentary builds a convincing case for voter disenfranchisement especially among African-Americans. Examining voting rights in the US the film is intended to encourage these voters to fight for their rights. Despite the obvious agenda there is a wealth of evidence to support the claims made and perhaps most damning of all for the Republicans, interviews with some of the people responsible for this swindle, who are unashamedly proud of what they achieved in putting Bush in the Whitehouse.
Inaba focuses on the issue of the removal of voting machines from poor, predominantly African-American areas, despite the fact that the populations had grown in those areas. He highlights the dodgy policy of striking certain names from the voting registers because they are similar to the names of convicted felons. He also exposes the Republican campaign to oust McKinney from her position by misrepresenting her views, quoting her out of context and even Republican cross-over voting in heavy numbers.
This is an angry film and justifiably so, having fought for the vote and having won the unchallengeable right to it, for people to be disenfranchised by such underhand tactics as blocking roads, removing or breaking machines and using false felony records to strike names from the register is sickening. The footage of people in poor areas being made to queue in the rain for hours only to be told they can´t vote because it´s too late was extremely convincing. The thing is these facts cannot be denied, at best this is gross incompetence to a stunning degree, in reality it is a clear attempt to steal an election and disenfranchise people who will vote Democrat.
The film clearly has an agenda and it is inflammatory in places but by concentrating on facts, using news footage and interviews with people from both sides of the divide a clear picture emerges and it is not pretty. Even if you are not a fan of McKinney it would be impossible to defend the way the Republicans seek to destroy her, their tactics are nothing short of immoral.
This is a well paced and informative film and it is an important film. Democracy is clearly under threat in the United States and if people do not fight for it they will lose it (if they haven´t already), this is the enduring and very positive message of the film - that people have to turn out and make their voices heard.