Film: Best Democracy Money Can Buy, The (2016)

November 8, 2016 | By

BestDemocracyCanBuyFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  n/a

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Genre:  Documentary / Politics / Investigative Journalism

Synopsis: Greg Palast’s investigative book becomes a jaunty documentary on tactics crafted & funded by billionaires to suppress minority voters.

Special Features:  n/a




BestDemocracyCanBuy_book_cvrExtrapolated from Greg Palast’s 2002 book, there’s a chilling relevancy to the research and interviews that still resonate in America’s 2016 elections in which Republican nominee Donald Trump repeatedly brought up voter fraud and claims of a ‘rigged system’ that prevents the country’s paler disenfranchised from reclaiming the greatness of their country and  the White House.

Palast’s film, which he co-directed with co-producer / co-editor David Ambrose, assembles some archival interviews from his travails as an investigative reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, and later the BBC when, as he declares in the film, no domestic publication was willing to publish his findings on voter fraud.

Most of what appears in the unusually long (111 mins.) film are chapters that make up a scary narrative in which billionaires have interlocked themselves in a system designed to suppress minority voters and ensure machinations within the GOP have a stronger chance of gutting legislation that presently prevents figures like the Koch brothers from exploiting natural resources (oil, gas), assets (defaulted loans, insurance payouts), and corporate interests (making billions more).

It’s easy to brand Palast’s doc as a loud, somewhat visually spastic propaganda assault pressurized with left-wing outrage aimed at capitalist success stories – the doc’s format is a weird collage of animation, jaunty edits, bursts of frank argot, and Palast as narrator / presenter in a classic 1940s gumshoe reporter wardrobe – but once the frenetic first section eases back into the first of several chapters of billionaire maneuverings, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy finds its momentum and keeps chugging towards nuclear clouds of what Palast quantifies as illegal voter suppression meticulously accomplished with impunity.

There’s way too many facts and loathsome figures within the doc to name in one shot, but the key aspect that should spawn revulsion is the issue of cross-checking, a lazy yet successful scheme that matches first & last names of voters, and irrespective of middle names, brands them as fraudulent attempts to vote two, three, and more times in various states. The end result is voters arriving at polling stations and finding themselves de-listed, but there are worse schemes that transpire and target primarily minority voters.

The film’s format, Palast’s bombast, and the sometimes spastic twists & turns make Democracy sometimes maddening (not to mention a few techniques borrowed from Michael Moore’s agitprop-filmmaking school), but you could also argue how else could Palast attract the attention of voters when the language of candidates, horrific attitudes by supposedly esteemed political figures, and lousy reportages by the media within the 2016 election have been so bellicose?

The saddest aspect of Palast’s doc is that most of the interviews refer to prior elections and examples of voter suppression, and nothing seems to have changed, in terms billionaires and corrupt figures maneuvering with impunity.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy is currently screening at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and is distributed by Cinema Libre.



© 2016 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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