SilveNotes: A Night for Political Junkies

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The centerpiece screening at Silverdocs 2009 was tonight’s world premiere of “Convention,” a collaborative effort from eight different documentarians to cover every aspect of the 2008 Democratic convention. A massive undertaking, the crew shot 90 hours of footage during their time in Denver, from a week beforehand all the way through President Obama’s acceptance speech at Mile High Stadium.

The documentary is a riveting piece of work, especially for anyone with an interest in national politics, protest culture, and the state of local newspapers. The filmmakers, assembled by A.J. Schnack, endeavored to capture the story from every angle — as Mr. Schnack said before the screening, the movie reminds him of “Back to the Future Part II” because in that film you get to see what happened in the first movie from a different perspective. “Convention” is like rewatching the Democratic convention from the street level, the command level, and the convention-floor level.

As a member of the press, I was most drawn to the press level view and the tribulations of cub reporter Allison Sherry, who was thrown from the schools beat to the Hillary Clinton beat with only a few weeks warning. Asking her to compete with the national press corps was like asking a kid from the Single A to pitch for the New York Yankees in the World Series: at one point she breaks into tears and runs from the cameras. It’s poignant and sad and a reminder that this thing we call journalism isn’t all that easy.

The rest of the documentary is no less gripping. The moves and countermoves by the protesters and city planners are intriguing, and the protesters offer some comic relief with their multitude of causes and miniscule numbers. And, of course, the sense of history is almost palpable as Barack Obama takes to the stage and accepts the nomination for presidency. All in all “Convention’s” a wonderful film, one to look for when it hits DVD shelves.

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