David Earnhardt’s Uncounted comes home for screening
There are some verygood reasons why the North Carolina premiere of David Earnhardt’sdocumentary Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections issignificant. The first is the film itself, an amazingly conciseand precise documentary about the many problems facing American voterstoday. Not with political or global or economic issues, but with thesimple act of exercising their constitutional right and casting theirvote on Election Day. Another is that writer/producer/directorEarnhardt, an Emmy award-winning television veteran making his featuredebut with Uncounted, has some very strong ties to the Piedmont Triadregion. He grew up in Greensboro ("Grades 1 through 12," he laughs) andmajored in film studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. "So there’s definitely ahometown feeling," he says. The premiere of Uncounted will takeplace this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Carousel Cinemas (1305Battleground Ave., Greensboro). On Friday, there will be a specialscreening at the Paramount Theater (128 E. Front St.) in Burlington.Earnhardt will be on hand for both screenings, discussing the film andselling it on DVD. These are only the latest stops onEarnhardt’s nationwide tour to promote the film and the issues itaddresses. For the last two and a half months, he’s been to almostevery state, showing the film at festivals or special screenings. Therehave also been nearly 400 house parties – in community centers,churches and people’s homes – in which viewers watch the filmsimultaneously and then discuss it. Often, Earnhardt will participatein a teleconference with these parties. "We obviously encourage people to spread the word," Earnhardt says. "This is very, very much a grassroots effort." Thefilm delves into the controversies surrounding the 2000, 2004 and to alesser extent, the 2006 elections – in which the voting process in thiscountry was justifiably called into question. Making the film didn’trequire a tremendous amount of digging; the stories were all there. "Mostpeople aren’t tuned in to the issue specifically," Earnhardt observes."They know some of the stories, but when they get this avalanche ofinformation, people get mad." There were exit-poll discrepanciesin 2004, instances of voter suppression that uncomfortably recalled theJim Crow era, reports of undervoting in districts that defied logic,numerous instances of technical glitches in electronic voting. In somecases these hurdles seemed almost intentionally designed to dissuadevoters. In some cases the media reported on them. In others, it did not. And,for some reason, all of these little mishaps and slip-ups seemed tobenefit the Republican Party. Uncounted explores that angle to apenetrating (and sometimes chilling) degree. At heart, what chiefly concerned Earnhardt – and continues to concern him: "Does my vote count?" Whenone considers the impact of that question, it goes beyond Republican orDemocrat, or whatever one’s political leanings. Isn’t the principalconcern for all Americans to ensure a fair democratic process? Isn’tthat, after all, what America is all about? "As big as themachine is, one single vote makes a difference," Earnhardt says. "Eachvote should count. That’s the simple truth of it." Eschewing anarrator, Earnhardt turned to politicians, political analysts,journalists and everyday voters to tell their stories, and all of themexpress concern that the election system in the United States is, atthe very least, seriously flawed. The film is an unabashed callto arms for Americans to be aware of those flaws, and to investigatethem. It pushes the buttons, but it’s not a pushy film. "Ilike in-your-face documentaries," Earnhardt says, "but we wanted to beobjective and make it very-evidence based – to lay it out and let itspeak for itself." The evidence presented in Uncounted hits anerve with audiences. "We get a real spectrum of people – and it makeseverybody mad," Earnhardt says. "Not just Democrats and Republicans,but independents, Green Party people… every spectrum." "We allwant to believe we’re a part of this grand democracy," Earnhardt says."Voting is in our identity as a nation and as an individual." MakingUncounted was not without its difficulties, but Earnhardt’s interestand determination only intensified with the more stories he heard andthe more people he met. Everyone, it seemed, had an opinion on thesubject – "and everyone should," he notes. "The hardest thingabout this project is the hardest thing about any film project – how toedit nearly three-hundred hours of footage into a ninety-minute movie.How do I boil this down to its essence?" Earnhardt began work onthe film shortly after the 2004 election, and had a completed versionready in time for the 2006 election – "and then 2006 became a piece ofthe story," Earnhardt says. "In 2006, there was more electronic votingthan ever, and even with what happened in 2004, the results were notbetter. In some cases, they were worse." An optimist, Earnhardtbelieves the system can be fixed, but people need to be aware thattheir vote is at stake. We must all keep one thing in mind, he says:"Pay attention. This could happen again in 2008 unless we pay closeattention." For more information about the film, see UncountedTheMovie.com.