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DID YOU READ

Reliving the Obama drama of “11/4/08.”

Reliving the Obama drama of “11/4/08.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

The loud yellow letters that open Jeff Deutchman’s “11/4/08” announce that “You are watching a consensual piece of cinema,” which carefully sidesteps the fact that it is not a film in any traditional sense of the word. Shot on dozens of digital cameras, it could also be described as a work in progress, compiled by moviemakers across the country and around the world on the night Barack Obama was elected president. It deals in emotions as opposed to narrative, and in the idea that moviemaking can be a social collective rather than an exercise in the auteur theory.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be mentioned here that Deutchman is also an acquisitions exec for our sister company IFC Films, though the companies are separate and I’ve never met him personally. As it turns out, neither have some of the people who helped make “11/4/08” — he made a point of shaking hands with Austin filmmaker Thomas Humphries after the film’s premiere since the two had never been in the same room together. Rather than crediting himself as a director on the project, he takes the less proprietary “curated and edited by” tag, culling together 70 minutes of material from 7 a.m. eastern time to 4 a.m. the following morning of the historic election day.

Within a matter of seconds, you’re being swept into the home of a family awaiting voter tallies in Homer, AK before following Joe and Kris Swanberg as they hang Obama leaflets on doors in Portage, IN and then away it is to Manhattan where some twentysomethings have discovered that their “I voted” sticker could be used to get all the free Starbucks coffee they want. Some of the people behind the cameras are relatively well-known like the Swanbergs, “The Order of Myths” director Margaret Brown and “Catfish” co-director Henry Joost, but according to the press notes, there were nearly as many amateurs contributing footage of varying levels of video quality that Deutchman weaves together into a document that reveals the parallel experiences of that day in something approximating real time. While a political scientist is waiting outside of Obama’s district polling place to catch a glimpse of the soon-to-be president-elect in Chicago, Obama volunteers in St. Louis are revving up for their final get out the vote push, and as the day wears on, so do the locations as we’re treated to glimpses of Dubai, New Delhi and Berlin.

According to the press notes, Deutchman hatched the plan for this via a mass e-mail only two weeks before the election and while the fact that there was something completed for SXSW is remarkable, it is also, for better or worse, a “take what you can get” situation. Although Robert Drew would be proud of the direct cinema distillation of pure human experience on display, there’s also no natural story arc on which “11/4/08” can hang its hat — the closest it comes is showing the red, white and blue balloons that a man is carrying in downtown Manhattan being used for a post-election party at a New York club near the end of the film.

There are many man-on-the-street interviews on subways and streets, and at viewing parties and campaign headquarters, but while there is some diversity among those being interviewed, at least racially, there isn’t nearly enough generationally or politically to generate much tension. (It doesn’t help matters that the lone two Americans who say they won’t support Obama don’t present well — one is dressed shabbily and comes across as a closet racist, the other looks like he just got done short-trading your future; an interview with a woman in Dubai who resignedly says it won’t matter who is elected is a more poignant voice of dissent, but although one can’t fault the moviemakers for not being able to predict the future, the person posing the question makes the folly of insisting that Obama would withdraw troops from Afghanistan while rival John McCain would not.)

Still, there are moments where “11/4/08” shines. In St. Louis, the back-to-back testimonials of two Obama volunteers — a 21-year-old woman whose father was fired when he refused to sell subprime mortgages to support her college education and a middle-aged African-American who reminisces about Emmett Till — has the power of a double-barreled shotgun blast. Similarly affecting is an ex-con sitting on the bleachers in Brooklyn who is distrustful of all the reports that the momentum is building towards the election of the first African-American president, yet sits stoically with his eyes fixed on the big screen in a public park. Knowing that there are many other moments like this out there, Deutchman ends “11/4/08” by asking for more footage at the web site, 11-4-08.com, where what was presented at SXSW will become in his words, “a living document.” It should be worth it to stay tuned.

“11/4/08” currently has no U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “11/4/08,” Consensual Cinema, 2010; Deutchman, holding mic, and many of the other filmmakers onhand for the SXSW Q & A, photo by Stephen Saito]

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.