Damn! Movie Review: Doc Tracks Rent Rollback Revolution Bid

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When was the last time you heard a mainstream political candidate demand as part of his election platform, a rent rollback for all? Not to mention a slightly less provocative but equally sensible call for a general rent freeze. Well, likely never.

Mainly because the days of promoting or increasing popular social benefits that cost money – especially any that might interfere with the profits of powerful lobbying entities – are pretty much over. And substituting instead in that pool of potential programs, those which are comparatively cost-free, like for instance gay marriage.

And in effect relegating to the dustbin of social progress just about anything on your wish list that may have lured you to those polling booths in the first place. Or else, deemed simply the rantings of a declared candidate as a lunatic, by daring to seemingly ask for the moon.

Enter Jimmy McMillan. Jimmy who? A sixtysomething African-American Brooklyn resident, disabled Vietnam veteran, retired postal worker, and occasional rapper, McMillan jumped right into the 2010 New York State gubernatorial race. And while boasting a could care less attitude about his lack of the typical candidate’s credentials – millionaire, lawyer, corporate suit or all of the above – McMillan with his Rent Is 2 Damn High Party railed against a situation most can relate to (and in increasing numbers with the foreclosure epidemic and surging population of tenants as opposed to home owners among us). Namely that yes, the rent is too damn high. But up against the sort of hopelessly and hence outlandishly perceived yet just demand in our rent-gouged society, which has become so inconceivable that anyone contemplating a remedy, tends to be viewed as a madman.

Not that labels or cynical mockery deter McMillian, or for that matter filmmaker Aaron Fisher Cohen from, well more tagging along after than directing the adamantly determined candidate for his documentary, Damn! And, no matter how discouraging the ensuing events may be.

And while we’re mostly clued in to only what McMillan the consummate performer would like us to see and nothing more, rare unscripted moments do materialize. Along with occasional revelations, like McMillan’s immensely greater popularity online over the winner, Andrew Cuomo, even though losing to him in the real world to the tune of votes in the millions.

Which may indeed indicate a telling glimpse into the future that yes, grassroots populist candidates with no money can aim big via the emerging power of the Internet, and bring renewed hope to a discouraged population for whom basic human rights have devolved into pipe dreams. Or in other words, better luck next time, Jimmy.

The Disinformation Company

Unrated

3 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express.