Please Vote for Me
A few years ago something remarkable happened at the Evergreen Primary School in Wuhan, China; while normally the position of Class Monitor is appointed by the a teacher, the students of Class 1, Grade 3 held an election instead. By no coincidence, documentarian Weijun Chen was there to record the proceedings, and what resulted was Please Vote for Me, a truly fascinating look into raw democracy.
The film is an exploration of what democracy would look like amongst a group of people with absolutely no notion of what it’s “supposed” to look like. Early on in the film, the extent of the students utter unfamiliarity with democracy is made plain, students are even unable to give any answer when asked what a vote is. Despite this, we quickly learn that the democracy these students create looks a lot like the democracy we in the west are so familiar with.
At the (presumably) the start of the school year, the Class 1 teacher informs her students that rather than appointing a student as Class Monitor for the year, they will have the opportunity to vote from three candidates. What follows is a campaign season filled with familiar scenes. The candidates are encouraged to recruit other students to work with them on their campaigns. We see lobbying, mud-slinging, cruelty and kindness. We see the challengers lambast the incumbent as a tyrant, while he insists he is only doing what is necessary. We see constant polling, we see enticement to vote through promises and gifts. We see candidates promising their supporters appointments to lesser positions in exchange for support, we see backstabbing, and soaring rhetoric. We see surprisingly substantive debates. It is truly a fascinating exploration of how much of our sophisticated political process, is really the type of thing that eight year-old children who’ve never voted for anything in their lives can figure out within a few days.
Normally when I write a short “quick take” review like this, it’s because I didn’t have a lot of time, or I simply didn’t have much to say about the film. That’s not really the case here. I could go on quite a bit about Please Vote for Me. The three candidates are all really interesting young people, and I really wanted to go into a lot more detail on the nature of their campaign, but I’ve decided that I don’t want to diminish the experience of viewing this film. It’s short, and it’s masterful. There are no fancy graphics, or showy edits. There’s no omnipotent narrator. There’s just a group of children, discovering democracy, faults and all. It’s an absolute must-see.
UPDATE (10/21/12): Based on the logic above, I’ve decided to re-file this one as a “Full Review” it had been a “Quick Take” originally.