Tuesday, April 07, 2009

"Hacking Democracy" (Documentary) (2006) - Movie Review

Watching “Recount” was comically entertaining but it also runs the portrait of depressing phenomenon in the system of democracy. “Hacking Democracy” has only the depressing part though it is not documented for entertainment. Most of the home video amateur spy mechanism from the lead championing lady Bev Harris is not for theatrics but for real evidence. There is a genuine attempt in their quest for the truth. They do not want their process to be flawed as the system they are pointing the problem. Hence despite its damp presentation, the effort has an integrity which thankfully put forth the issue properly.

The embarrassing 2000 US Presidential Election is a cry to go through the cracks of this method which failed the boasting democracy of the country. Having worked as a code monkey and just entering the realms of systems, I could see the “bugs” in the secretive software. What amazes is though the haphazard attitude in getting by with it in the name of classified information. In the electronic voting which is prevalent in all the elections which has happened, the company Diebold Inc., has been supplying with an inaccurate and flawed security system as Bev Harris the founder of the non-profit organization Black Box Voting claims to state. The film goes through in analyzing that if not in depth but with computer professors and scientists trying to break it with no difficulty.

Beyond the allegations and the counter arguments of Diebold, there is indeed a problem. The scary and shameful fact is that even after the debacle in the 2000 elections, there is no proper investigation to get the source of this mistake. Clearly something happened to clock negative votes for Al Gore. And in the last demonstration of the film wherein Harri Hursti, a professor from Johns Hopkins University embeds a hacking system in the memory card which records the votes from the electronic system, it is more than obvious of what is happening out here. Irresponsible development and authentication of this machine and since the federal seem to be less bothered, it is more easy for blame and escape. I had to laugh even though it is sad when they open a simple MS Access database to alter the votes for different representative.

The film though could have been more thorough and very importantly sharp. Not sharp as in the unnecessary confrontal acts but the editorial skill of giving this in sequential details. Instead there is a linear single tone narration of this active investigative war run by this self motivated and passionate people on getting to the bottom of this wide gap in the democratic process. While the film is informative, clear and honest, in terms of presenting for the art of medium, it could have been lot better and precise.

While thinking about the accusations, the thought of this humongous and laborious process of maintaining and organizing this event of churning towards the race to decide the fate of the country made me to overlook their mistakes. But no, that makes it the most important and more responsible beckoning program. For better or worst, there should be a fair way of electing the representative of the people. Either its Bush or Gore or Obama or McCain or Cheney or Biden or Palin, there needs a respect for this process and that right for the people getting abused and manhandled is plainly wrong.

In this hunt for finding the root cause of the failure, Bev Harris with her team goes state to state and city to city and dig the trash on the outside of the election departments of the county. Weird and unnecessary as it sounds, they find the disposed official counting tapes signed by the executives of the election which got over a few days back. More so it differs widely from the official counting tapes they were given. More than favouring a particular party, it is an exemplifies the lethargic nature of the officials. But then again there is a disciplined official Ion Sancho, Supervisor of Elections allowing the team to see the optical system failing right in front of him and he is astounded.

Directors Simon Ardizzone and Russell Michaels empathize with the vigour and agony of Bev Harris and thus use the video in its simplistic fashion to get the points across. Which indeed it does but the flair or spark never gets to materialize. The pain and enthusiasm the people thrive on the film and want the rest of the citizens to share does not transpire and motivate to act. “Hacking Democracy” is very informative but not inspirational.

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