Street Fight (2005)

Street Fight (2005) — Flat out one of the best political documentaries I have ever seen. Street Fight is about the 2002 mayoral election between 16-year-incumbant Newark, New Jersey mayor Sharpe James and challenger Cory Booker. The film focuses on Booker. According to director Marshall Curry, this is because he wanted to cover both sides but Sharpe James seems to be rather hostile to the press in general and Curry in particular. There are several scenes present in the movie where Curry tries to film and James’ campaign events and is forcibly removed by police officers acting as James’ private security. Throughout the film police are seen acting as James’ private army. They rip down Booker’s campaign signs (despite an order from a federal judge not to). They also insist that Curry is on “private property” when on the CITY SIDEWALK. They prevent Booker from going door-to-door in the Housing Authority (where James had canvassed a week earlier) again based on the “private property” argument. Race also factors into the race heavily. James repeatedly slams Booker as a “white Republican” (both men are black democrats as Newark has a nonpartisan election). When Booker raises more money than James, James exaggerates the number and accuses Booker of being a carpet-bagger trying to buy the election. A good percentage of James’ message seems to be that Booker is not “one of [them].” Street Fight is an appropriate title for this movie and I highly recommend it. REAL-LIFE SPOILERS FOLLOW: In the movie, Sharpe James ends up winning reelection. The film (being released in 2005) does not cover this but James declines to seek reelection in 2006 at which point Booker was elected mayor of Newark in a landslide (72% of the vote). He was re-elected in 2010 and is still in office. Sharpe James was convicted of five counts of fraud in 2008 and served 18 months in prison.

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