Father and daughter filmmakers Bob and Rachel Millman visited the Schwarzenegger Institute on September 13th to screen their new documentary Line in the Street and to participate in a conversation on gerrymandering and civil engagement. The Millmans joined Common Cause National Redistricting Coordinator Dan Vicuna and Schwarzenegger Institute Academic Director Christian Grose in a pre-screening discussion of the film.
Line is the Street is a film examining gerrymandering through the lens of Pennsylvania and the recent legal and legislative battles there. The documentary begins with an explanation of gerrymandering using dimes and pennies, to represent Democrats and Republicans, followed by a close look at the grassroots campaign for fair maps in the state and the legislators working against the effort.
Robert Millman opened the conversation by explaining that patriotism and love of country are what motivated him to make Line in the Street and explained that he and his daughter stretched their "shoe string” budget, generated primarily by small donations raised via social media and an Indiegogo campaign, to produce the film.
"We are it," said Bob Millman. "We don’t have backing, or an organization behind us and those political forces that wish to continue having control over how elections are resolved by redistricting, they’ve got a media campaign going and if no one challenges that media campaign it will prevail. Basically they are saying, drawing terrible maps is our right and if you want to reform the maps you are a nasty socialist.”
Rachel Millman added, “it is an understatement to say that we live in politically frustrating times and when so many things seem unfixable, [gerrymandering] is a fixable thing. And being able to have the… ability to log onto Twitter everyday saying ‘please give me money’ to make this film was a pleasure and privilege."
Common Cause was not involved in the making of the film but has been fighting for redistricting reform in Pennsylvania and in other states across the country. Dan Vicuna, the organization’s National Redistricting Coordinator, provided an overview of the gerrymandering problem and the work that he and his colleagues are doing.
“Gerrymandering really gets to the heart of democracy,” explained Vicuna. “It makes it difficult, and in some states where it is done with scientific precision, impossible to throw the bums out on election day. So, what we have seen is a backlash. When I first started this work with Common Cause, redistricting was a niche issue. The political insiders and good government types knew what it was but the public at large wasn’t as familiar and didn’t realize how central to democracy the issue was. That has really changed and we have seen a sea change. Common Cause, just a couple of weeks ago, won a lawsuit in North Carolina, following the lead of Pennsylvania, a suit based on the State Constitution in North Carolina and hopefully that will provide a road map going forward for success.”
Christian Grose closed the conversation with a question about how the film was made. Rachel Millman responded that she and her father "took turns making sure the other didn’t get arrested."
Bob and Rachel Millman will continue screening Line in the Street Line in select locations throughout the country. The documentary is also available to rent or purchase on Vimeo. Follow @LineintheStreet on Twitter for more information.