(Note to readers: This is a review; the previous blog entry was a preview.--Ed.)
One aspect of Greg Palast's latest harrowing investigation, as executive producer Martin Sheen says, is horror. This is a horror movie, replete with unfathomable corruption and the ghosts of hideous violence.
It is a dire tragedy--opening on the heels of Stacey Abrams' failed lawsuit to prove the lawless corruption of many electoral practices in Georgia, including the scrubbing of registration rolls that handed the 2018 gubernatorial race to Brian Kemp.
Another aspect of Vigilante is heartbreak: of the senseless repression of hundreds of thousands of innocent voters caught attempting to vote while black. Individual victims are interviewed crying over the abuse of their rights, including a first cousin of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 96-year-old Christine Jordan, and Major Gamaliel Turner, this country's leading expert on warfare of the future. While he was stationed in California serving this country, he applied for an absentee ballot. When he didn't receive it, he contacted the registrar's office and was told that his vote had been challenged. He had to make the inquiry. No one told him. Once a Georgia vote is challenged, subjects must prove their qualifications, often residency, even if they've lived and voted in the same place for years. Turner was able to regain his rights. But the same thing is happening to countless others in Georgia who won't be told unless they ask about it. They must be warned. They stand to lose their votes--250,000 of them have already been challenged. To find out if you've been challenged, go to SaveMyVote2022.org.
Georgia history is a leitmotif in Vigilante. In one example, an armed Georgian militia in Civil War regalia is showcased early in the film. They proudly wave Confederate flags and their new solid white "secession" flag with a large red star in the center--red the color of Republicans or blood or both?
And red is the bright color of the dress sported by another corrupt interviewee, Pamela Reardon, her comfy home protected at the front door with an assault weapon. This ambitious GOP operative is convinced that election 2020 in her Peachtree state was stolen from Trump. Nonresident votes kept him from winning, she says. She alone has challenged more than thirty-three thousand voters, though she claims only to have sent out "letters" (caging postcards?) requesting proof of address. Challenged herself on this point, she loudly throws Palast out, swearing as he leaves, most unbecoming to a southern lady. He thanks her.
But the star of the film, if not the oppressed victims of repression time and again, If not Palast, is the vigilante, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who campaigned initially on his humble background and professed wish to integrate school--both lies. Palast traces his lineage back to the first importers of African slaves into Georgia before the Revolution. Get this: slavery was against the law in Georgia even then. Farmers objected to this atrocity in vain.
More recently, Kemp is the scion of a thriving construction corporation, owners of myriad acres of wooded land now a source of toilet paper pulp for Koch Industries among others.
We are treated to a brief tour of one of the plantation manor homes of Kemp's forebears. They'd smile with pride, though challenging voters originated with Gene Talmadge, a Ku Klux Klanner elected as governor of Georgia in 1945.
Kemp revived this practice with the passage of SB202 in the immediate wake of the Georgia Miracle in January 2020 that swept a black minister and Jewish filmmaker into the Senate, giving the majority to Democrats.
Kemp's SB202 not only allows any Georgian to challenge an unlimited number of voters--48,000 have been challenged in Cobb County alone, one of the few Democratic strongholds in this swing state. It also criminalizes the donation of water and/or food to voters stuck in long lines at the polls"a felony, an act of "civil disobedience."
Palast delves into more Georgia history, including the lynchings whose ghosts cry out for justice. An interview with the Georgia Historical Society ends when the subject of the Hayes-Tilden 1876 electoral impasse comes up; the fear is that the board of directors, all moguls appointed by Kemp, would be offended.
Parallels are drawn with D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, which defends the KKK's denial of voting rights to blacks"portrayed by white actors in blackface.
The "KKK Act" of 1871 actually forbade the intimidation of voters.
"The South Will Rise Again"? Yes, the film concludes, not with reactionary fantasies but MLK's dream: "This too [the corruption] will pass. We're stronger and better!" "Spirits crying out for justice will rise from their graves."
Defending his own ghosts, Kemp is battling the ghosts of oppression--a horror story indeed.
Lasting an hour, Vigilante is narrated by Rosario Dawson, directed by David Ambrose, and produced by the Academy award winner Maria Florio. To find live presentations, go to Click Here. To order the dvd, go to Click Here
Don't miss this warning of an already-metastatic cancer. It's about the future of democracy. It will anger you and provoke the activism and actions crucial to preserving it.