A hotly contested political race generates a wealth of drama in this documentary from filmmaker Marshall Curry.
Sharpe James is a veteran politician who has been mayor of Newark, NJ, since 1986; by the admission of his own spokespeople, James is a “machine” politician who uses muscle and influence to get things done, and while he’s enjoyed the fruits of his success, his administration has been accused of having a long history of corruption. In 2002, Cory Booker, a lawyer who was a member of the Newark City Council, announced he was running for mayor, and it didn’t take long for the contest to get ugly. Booker was a graduate of Yale Law School, a Rhodes Scholar, and an advocate of more open and honest government, and James and his staff wasted no time in attacking his qualifications and personality in public.
While both candidates were African-American, James chose to play the race card, questioning if Booker was “black” enough and suggesting the church-going Baptist was actually a Jew. James’ campaign staff didn’t stop at verbal attacks, and as Marshall Curry began covering the James and Booker campaigns, he found himself frequently attacked by James’ supporters with his camera running and in full view of other reporters, and a number of local businessmen stated for the record that they were supporting James for fear of reprisals later on.
The film that resulted from Curry’s efforts, Street Fight, received a 2005 Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.