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SXSW '10 | Filmmakers Capture History in "11/4/08"

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire March 12, 2010 at 6:0AM

"11/4/08"'s marks Jeff Deutchman's directorial debut. After four years working in various facets of the independent film industry, Deutchman spearheaded a collaborative initiative to bring together friends from all over the world to capture history. Two weeks before the election of Barack Obama, I asked friends around the world to record their experiences of 11/4/08, a day that had become historic before it had even taken place. In this documentary, a global canvas unfolds: in St. Louis and Austin, idealistic volunteers think they can turn their states blue; in Chicago, voter lines grow even longer when Obama shows up to cast his own vote; in Dubai, Berlin, Geneva and New Delhi, expatriates express their emotion from a distance; and in Harlem, a felon casts doubt on whether any of this will affect his life. As we approach Obama's victory at 11pm EST, what emerges is a portrait of how people choose to live through 'history': the celebration of a new future remaining entangled with the universally visible tensions of the past. [Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]
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"11/4/08"'s marks Jeff Deutchman's directorial debut. After four years working in various facets of the independent film industry, Deutchman spearheaded a collaborative initiative to bring together friends from all over the world to capture history. Two weeks before the election of Barack Obama, I asked friends around the world to record their experiences of 11/4/08, a day that had become historic before it had even taken place. In this documentary, a global canvas unfolds: in St. Louis and Austin, idealistic volunteers think they can turn their states blue; in Chicago, voter lines grow even longer when Obama shows up to cast his own vote; in Dubai, Berlin, Geneva and New Delhi, expatriates express their emotion from a distance; and in Harlem, a felon casts doubt on whether any of this will affect his life. As we approach Obama's victory at 11pm EST, what emerges is a portrait of how people choose to live through 'history': the celebration of a new future remaining entangled with the universally visible tensions of the past. [Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]

"11/4/08"
Emerging Visions
Director: Jeff Deutchman
Producers: Jeff Deutchman, Natalie Difford
Editor: Jeff Deutchman
Production Company: Consentual Cinema
70 minutes

Director Jeff Deutchman on his background and film "11/4/08"...

I consider myself a cinephile first and foremost.  Up until now, I've channeled my love of movies into indie film acquisitions and distribution.  If you love something, you want there to be a system in place to allow that thing to exist and the people who make them to live comfortably.  Working in distribution allows me to discover great films and find ways for them to be seen.  To me, filmmaking is an extension of this.  If I come up with an idea for a movie that I would want to see, I'll try to make it happen, whether that means giving it to someone else to direct or doing it myself.


In the weeks leading up to Obama's election, I was as excited as anyone.  Naturally, at times like these, you try to find a way to contribute.  I donated money and volunteered, but I guess I wanted to do something that was more suited to my base of knowledge and experience.  Roughly two weeks before the election, it occurred to me that people would be filming, but that there was unlikely to be any organization to the resulting footage.  Regardless of what happened, I thought that it would be a day charged with an unusual amount of emotion, and that it was worth an experiment.  So I just went for it. I sent a mass e-mail and facebook blast to everyone I knew and quickly amassed a team of filmmakers.  There was initially some debate about how unified the approach should be.  Barry Jenkins, who was originally going to shoot footage, had a fascinating idea about asking all the filmmakers to use tri-pods and to forbid camera movement.  I loved the idea but ultimately thought it was impractical - many of the people I had enlisted to shoot weren't filmmakers and many had just barely managed to borrow a camera.  I ended up giving the team a broad mission: to shoot their experience of the day.

When I ultimately collected the footage, I discovered a broad array of approaches on many different formats.  This presented lots of technical challenges that are not worth getting into here.  Creatively, I had to submit myself completely to the footage.  Any predisposition I might have had towards the film I wanted to make was thrown out the window.  What I discovered in the editing process was that I was making a film with a far more ambivalent message than I initially imagined.  A lot of this had to do with things going on in the world.
 
Why Deutchman thinks his film is ideally suited for SXSW...


I think SXSW is a place where people like to feel actively involved with their entertainment.  From the Interactive festival to the Mumblecore movement to the Alamo Drafthouse, it's not a place where people sit back and passively watch.  So I think the participatory nature of "11/4/08" is well-suited to the festival.  It was made by 26 different filmmakers and it's open to multiple interpretations.  Plus, 11-4-08.com is still collecting footage and encouraging people to download the raw footage and make their own movies.
 
Deutchman on films and filmmakers that inspired him while making "11/4/08"...

Michael Apted's "Up" series is something that I thought a lot about because I felt like I was doing something opposite.  Apted limits himself spatially (focusing on several British middle class subjects) so that he can explore time.  I limited myself temporally (focusing on a single day) so that I could explore space.  I also found Margaret Brown's "The Order of Myths" really inspiring from a filmmaking standpoint.  And there have been a number of art and web projects that share an interest in the explosion of authorship.  For instance, "Star Wars Uncut" and Alice George's 9/11 photo project.
 
...and on future projects in the pipeline...

I have a friend, Lucy Teitler, who wrote an incredible script about a guy and a girl and the internet called "Strictly Platonic."  I want to help get that made.  I also wrote a teen comedy called "Emo Boys" with my college roommate, Peter Duchan.  It's set during the 1996 Presidential Election.  That one needs to get off the ground.

This article is related to: Features, Interviews, 11/4/08