CREDIT: Magnolia Pictures

Starring: Activists and Unaccountable Politicians

Directors: Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance

Running Time: 101 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Politics as Usual

Release Date: April 3, 2020 (On Demand)

There’s a presidential election, as well as many other elections, happening in these here United States in the year 2020 AD. And there is also very real concern that not everyone who wants to cast a legitimate vote will be able to or that their voice will be counted the way that it is supposed to be in a democracy. A worldwide pandemic is certainly no help here, but there are other problems that have been around for much longer. One of the biggest issues, which the documentary Slay the Dragon would very much like us to be aware of, is gerrymandering. I’ve already seen this topic explained elsewhere plenty of times, but it’s useful to have it all detailed again in one feature-length package. Especially because 2020 is a census year and the next round of redistricting is scheduled to happen in the near future.

In case you haven’t been following this subject closely, gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating the boundaries of political borders for the purpose of gaining a political advantage that might not be what we citizens like to refer to as “fair.” In recent years, a bunch of oddly shaped districts have popped up with nicknames like “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck” that attempt to make some sense out of their geographic improbability. Gerrymandering has also resulted lately in Republicans gaining a majority of seats in certain state legislatures despite Democrats winning more votes in total statewide.

Slay the Dragon presents a number of folks in this fray who are very invested in changing the current system or keeping it just as it is, thank you very much. The most prominent change agent is 29-year-old activist Katie Fahey, who’s been pushing to ban gerrymandering in her native Michigan along with an initiative to institute a bipartisan redistricting commission tasked to work independently of the elected legislators. She’s a dogged, inspiring young person, and if you stick with her story, you might be able to stay sane as you attempt to hold onto the supposed fundamental principles of a representative democracy. She’s got a lot of doubters trying to shoo her away with bad faith arguments and weaponized cognitive dissonance. If she can remain resilient through it all, then the rest of us who also care about a genuine political system ought to be able to check out the diagnosis of this ongoing illness.

Slay the Dragon is Recommended If You Like: The promise of a system that works for everybody

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Ballot Initiatives