New Jersey Senator Cory Booker’s announcement of his 2020 presidential run marked only the latest chapter in a career of ambitious campaigns, the most famous of which was captured in Marshall Curry’s 2005 Oscar-nominated documentary “Street Fight.” The intimate portrait followed Booker through a dramatic 2002 Newark mayoral race against long-time incumbent Sharpe James, who ultimately prevailed. Booker finally won in 2006, scored reelection in 2010, and became a senator in 2013.
Now, Curry’s gearing up for a sequel.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) February 1, 2019
When Booker announced his campaign to run for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States February 1, the filmmaker was there with a camera, recording Booker the moment he hit “send” on a tweet announcing the campaign (above). While plans for a “Street Fight” follow-up aren’t official yet, Curry said he expects to get there.
“I was with him all day,” Curry said in an interview the day after Booker announced his plans. “The campaign and I are still feeling each other out.”
With “Street Fight,” Curry captured Booker at the inner-city Newark housing project where he lived for years, as well as tense strategy sessions and frank conversations between members of the campaign. The filmmaker, who is currently nominated for the Best Short Documentary Oscar for “A Night at the Garden,” said he would only continue to pursue a project on the Booker campaign if he achieved the same level of revealing material.
“I only want to do it if I get extraordinary access, and they want to make sure that they are comfortable with having a camera around,” Curry said. “But things have gone well — they been really forthcoming with intimate access, including Cory at home, and at prep meetings. So I think it’s very likely.”
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Curry has returned to his “Street Fight” subject a few times over the years, gathering a few days of footage after Booker’s successful mayoral campaign, and again during his initial Senate run. “I wasn’t trying to make a standalone film at that point, but I thought it might be interesting one day to look back and have material to make a ‘7 Up’-style film,” Curry said, referring to the Michael Apted documentary series that follows several British children from childhood through middle-age. However, Curry stressed that he was currently focused on a feature around Booker’s presidential run.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) February 1, 2019
“It feels like a wide-open race, with a lot of Democratic candidates who actually like and respect each other,” Curry said, noting fellow-candidate Kirsten Gillebrand’s comical tweet welcoming Booker to the race. “I think the primary will be interesting — to see how different candidates jockey with each other, fighting hard while keeping in mind that their real enemy is Trump.”
Booker has been one of the higher-profile Senators to criticize the president, who has responded in turn. “If Cory makes it to the race against Trump, it will be a bloody fight,” said Curry.
Many of Booker’s current platforms are visible in “Street Fight,” particularly his emphasis on economic insecurity and discrimination. Curry noted that his Oscar-nominated short film touched on similar issues. “I think ‘A Night at The Garden’ is as political as ‘Street Fight,’ if not more so,” Curry said of his short, which examines a 1939 Nazi rally that filled Madison Square Garden.
“Even though it’s about something that happened 80 years ago, I made it because I was struck by how that story spoke to our current political situation,” he said. “A leader takes the stage at Madison Square Garden and attacks the press, he tells that audience that they need to take America back from the minorities who are destroying it, and a protester is beaten up while the audience laughs and cheers. They wrap a hateful ideology in the icons of American patriotism, with American flags everywhere and a huge portrait of George Washington flanked by swastikas.”
The parallels with Trump rallies speak for themselves. Beyond that, however, Curry said that Booker was an easygoing documentary subject even as his profile expanded after “Street Fight.” In that movie, Curry is seen attempting to showcase both sides of the race, but while James prevents the filmmaker from gaining access, Booker opens his doors. “I think he’s a funny, surprisingly down-to-earth guy,” Curry said. “He has charisma — and that goes a long way in any film.”
Watch Curry’s Oscar nominated “A Night at the Garden” here.