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'By the People'
Explores the Brute Facts of Election Day
By NATHAN LEE
Published: July 28, 2006
Recent elections may have rendered the maxim “every vote counts”
quaint at best, but don’t tell that to Doris Anne Sadler. As the
indefatigable county clerk in Indianapolis, her efforts to
facilitate the democratic process uplift “By the People,” a
behind-the-scenes documentary account of the logistics of a
This is no partisan screed or paranoid conspiracy thesis; the
filmmaker, Malindi Fickle, restricts herself to the brute facts of
organization and crisis control as a small team of chipper factotums
and enthusiastic volunteers (average age 72) attend to bureaucratic
minutiae. Voting machines are delivered and installed, paraplegics
are registered to vote, training sessions are conducted for hundreds
of poll workers, mountains of paperwork are inspected, and huge
amounts of caffeine are consumed.
This being the 2004 presidential election, everything goes haywire
on Nov. 2. Phone lines go down; voting machines go kaput; a list of
several thousand dead voters, many of whom are not actually dead, is
delivered by the secretary of state. Ms. Sadler, meanwhile, carries
on with her impossibly good-natured dedication.
“By the People” aims to inspire the 71 million Americans who chose
not to vote in that election by illustrating how gosh-darn great it
is to participate in democracy. That’s terribly sweet, and if the
movie inspires people to vote or volunteer, hurrah. It is far more
compelling as an unconscious disaster film, heartbreaking in its
BY THE PEOPLE
Opens today in Manhattan.
Directed by Malindi Fickle; director of photography, Kris Lienert;
edited by Ms. Fickle, Ms. Lienert and Michael Bassett; music by Jeff
Gerson; produced by Ms. Fickle, Jennifer Fitzgerald and Liza Politi;
released by Hyberbaric Productions. At the Village East, Second
Avenue at 12th Street, East Village. Running time: 89 minutes. This
film is not rated.