Yesterday concluded this year's Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York. On Wednesday night I caught the 12th installment in a 12 part series entitled How Democracy Works Now: Twelve Stories. The last in the group is Last Best Chance, a chronicle of Senator Edward Kennedy's battle for comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. Filmmakers Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson were on hand for Q & A afterward and several of the questions were about clarification. That being said, the film did a remarkable job of making something complex fairly clear and interesting. It also depicted a passionate, hardworking senator (and his team) who spent his life fighting for human rights, whether it immigration or health care reform.
The real story here though, in my opinion, is the anatomy of a bill (Senator Kennedy's presence adds romance to what could be a pretty dry subject on the surface) . How a bill becomes, or doesn't become law. It's fascinating and enlightening to see the politics and red tape that a bill goes through and all the different personalities and reasoning that can make or break it. The people who work tirelessly to reach something, then have to watch it get twisted and torn to shreds. A long and agonizing death.
The film does a great job of raising some pretty interesting questions too. For instance, when does a bi-partison effort become too much of a compromise for one party or the other, and are those compromises worth reaching an agreement and getting a bill passed? Of course we know this one from 2007 didn't get passed, but for me it didn't make the film experience less interesting or even less hopeful.
The filmmaker, Sheri Robertson said she wrote Senator Kennedy after the bill had died, thanking him for everything (they had filmed since 2001!). She said he replied to her letter saying, "Come back. We're not done."