Way Cool: RNC as Not Seen on TV
dir. Huestis
Opens Fri Oct 8
Clinton Street Theater

There were no riots at the Republican National Convention in August. Perhaps that's why most of the media attention surrounding the event kept its blinders rather well secured, studiously chronicling the speeches and glad handing that went on inside. What was less interesting, apparently, were the throngs of people gathered on the streets, protesting peacefully. More people, actually, than have ever taken to the streets to protest a political convention. Not radicals, not militant extremists, just ordinary people. What, that's not sexy enough for TV?

Picking up the slack were independent media cameras, like the one wielded by Marc Huestis. Nothing really happens in Huestis' Way Cool to give it much stock, entertainment-wise--it looks like someone's home movie ("My Trip to the Big Protest") and really, that's what it is. Aside from a standard set of questions posed to the people encountered ("Why are you here?" or "Are you optimistic about the future of America?"), there is no form to the film. It simply documents the protest from the inside.

One of the greatest joys in this sort of film is getting to see the creativity of the protesters at work. One woman shows the roof of a Brooklyn building that is festooned with a giant banner, intended to be seen by Republicans as they cruise into JFK, that reads "No More Bush. Vote Kerry." The street protest itself featured signs like "My Bush Smells Like Shit," and a giant image of Dubya with his mouth hanging open, spewing a constant feed of paper that says "Lies" and "Hate" all over it.

Although relatively cheerful and uneventful, the documentation in Way Cool is emotional. It's incredibly warming to see the numbers of people who turned out, and frustrating that their impact seems to have been tempered by a lack of attention. It's hard to recommend this film as entertainment, but it's easy to do so as a freshly rendered portrait of the American opposition.