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Full of Missed Opportunities
28 August 2010
I love Drew Barrymore, but this documentary repeatedly misses the opportunity to do exactly what it sets out to accomplish: to help young people understand why it's important to vote.

The film effectively uses Drew as the starting point of its exploration. She's "typical" of her generation in that she doesn't know much about the political process, feels inadequate to participate in it, and although she senses that it's important to vote she's struggling to understand why that's true. However, the film fails to evolve beyond that point. It misses the opportunity to educate people about the political process even as she works to educate *herself* about it.

For example, Drew captured some terrific footage from politicians either blowing off young voters or angst-ing over the "chicken/egg" dynamic of getting young people to vote. But it misses the opportunity to educate them about *how* young people got the vote to begin with. The voting age was 21 until the 26th amendment was enacted in 1971 *directly in response to student activism against the Vietnam War.* They felt that if they were old enough to die for their country, then they ought to have a say in its political policies.

That fact alone could have provided the centerpiece for exploring the experience of young voters today. Why have young people evolved from being a force of radical change to being the picture of political apathy?

Likewise, this documentary takes you to the New Hampshire primary, but never explains what a primary is or why it's important to the election process. It talks about the importance of voter registration, but it doesn't tell people how to actually *get* registered. It fails to identify relevant "youth issues" and areas of frustration that young people might be able to remedy using the power of their votes.

In other words, it asks some good questions, but fails to provide grounded, useful, real-world answers, nor does it provide a pithy education about the political process and how a young person might fit into it and use it to their advantage.

That said, it's interesting in its own way. It just suffers from a too-close perspective and fails to deliver the bigger picture, which would have been more enlightening and thought-provoking. It would actually be interesting to see Drew produce a second film on this topic from her current vantage point: a bit older and now better-informed. She could bring a unique and interesting perspective to a follow-up production, and probably help get a new generation fired up about political participation.

Here's hoping!
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