Looking for something to watch on election day tomorrow? Look no further! Olivia Domba recommends five films that reflect on the campaign process and the issues themselves.


The War Room

While other attempts have been made to capture the political tenor of the Clinton era on film, most visibly The West Wing, nothing beats Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary. Featuring Columbia grad and political wunderkind George Stephanopoulos before his This Weekand Good Morning America days, The War Room focuses on the David Axelrods and David Plouffes of the Clinton campaign. If anything, it is because of Stephanopoulous and Clinton Campaign Manager James Carville that Axelrod and Plouffe can be household names for their work on this year’s Obama campaign. There is also almost nothing more chilling than hearing Stephanopoulos tell someone threatening to come out with information concerning a potential love child the night before the election that if they do, they will never work in Democratic politics again.

The Battle of Algiers

Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 retelling of the French Algerian War has been applied to other anti-colonialist and violent political movements since its release. Banned in Israel until it was screened for a few months after the outbreak of the First Intifada, The Battle of Algiers was also famously screened by the Pentagon in 2003 in order to demonstrate the parallels between the Iraq and Algerian Wars. As attention shifts from Iraq to Afghanistan, questions concerning the effectiveness of current counter-terrorism strategies, violent resistance, and occupation remain as relevant as ever. The Pentagon publicized the 2003 screening with a flyer that read: “How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.”

The Interrupters

While attention this coming election season has naturally been focused on the presidential race, the economy, and Afghanistan, the issues that remain under the radar tend to pose the most existential threats. Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz’s 2011 documentary about “violence interrupters” in Chicago, which hit the festival circuit before airing on PBS’ Frontline, presents the issue of gun and gang violence through the lens of those who are actively trying to make a difference at the grassroots level. Eddie, Cobie, and Ameena, the three interrupters profiled in the film, work under the mantra “save a life,” and they do so despite crippling poverty, unemployment that is spiraling out of control, and a self-perpetuating cycle of violence.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days

Women’s issues have been getting more attention than usual this election cycle. Whether it is because of the Republican Party’s adoption of a ban on abortion as a part of their official platform or the non-existent difference between “rape” and “forcible rape,” decisions concerning the reproductive and general health of women will be made as a result of this election. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is about two college roommates who organize an illegal abortion when one, Găbiţa, gets pregnant. On the surface, the film deals with the consequences of making abortion illegal. As with Mungiu’s recent film Beyond the Hills, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days has more to say about the relationship between citizens and institutions than it necessarily does about abortion or religion.. The government has failed Găbiţa, straining her relationship with her friend Otilia, the ultimate focus of the film. Start watching the film for its commentary on life under Communism, but stay for the way in which Mungiu organizes a frame, and what he doesn’t show.

 Election (1999)

Everyone knows Tracy Flick. You had to suffer through her speeches about the greatness of high school and the potential in each and every one of your classmates. You knew that there was no way that she could have fit all of her extracurricular activities on her college application. There was no way that she could be a real person. The beauty and sadness of Alexander Payne’s film about a high school student body election in Omaha is that it really isn’t just about a high school in Omaha. When Tracy mentions speaking to such and such a student about the “serious” issues they face, is she really that far removed from either of the presidential candidates during the debates? The election in Election is a complete farce; as Tammy says during her campaign speech, “Do you think that it’s really going to change anything?” Unlike the student government election at George Washington Carver High School, this election probably will change something – don’t forget to vote!