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Two Online Docs Go Long

BY Joshua Levy | Tuesday, January 8 2008

I love political videos on YouTube as much as anyone, but sometimes the filmmaker in me yearns for something more than one- or two-minute voter-generated videos in support of one candidate or against another. The political web can be so hyper-focused on the moment that I’m still surprised when folks take a step back and produce in-depth videos and analyses about what makes voters tick.

Yet two projects -- Purple States and Hope for Change -- do just this.

Purple States is a web documentary in which “five citizens, of different backgrounds and beliefs, ages, and affinities” travel to early primary states and meet with independent voters, discussing their own political beliefs along the way. Here’s the introductory video:

The project was started by political science professor Cynthia Farrar and offers moving portraits of conflicted and committed independent voters who aren’t convinced that either major party is right for them. As the subjects travel to early primary states, we’re introduced to some of the big issues facing the country and listen to folks describe how neither party is addressing them. Suiting today’s primary vote, the most recent episode takes place in New Hampshire.

Hope for Change is a long-ish web documentary in nine parts by filmmakers Curtis Faith and Jennifer Jordie. They followed Barack Obama across the country last summer in order to “highlight the dishonesty in America to get to the truth of our situation and the best ways to move forward.”

Here’s the first part:

While it’s not as slick as Purple States and it lacks a handful of charismatic protagonists (Obama is viewed from afar), the film hits some of the same notes as Purple State. The filmmakers are searching for a new kind of politics, and write on their web site, “We will attempt to cut through the spin, hype, and bullshit proffered by the left, the right, and the corporate controlled media to get at the truth about the State We’re In as a nation and society.” I’m not so sure if this film does that, but it does offer the public a more measured, longer-form look at Obama and American politics than a minute-long YouTube clip will allow.