“Politics is the art of the possible,” said the master of European statecraft, Otto von Bismarck. As true as that may be, there are still people running for office hoping to accomplish the impossible. You may ask, why would anyone pursue elected office when the odds are simply ridiculous? What would compel a Texas Democrat to run for Congress in a district where 85% of the voters will likely vote for the sitting Republican Congressman? Why would he do it? Just plain stubborn? A fools errand? Dilettante’s impossible dream?
More to the point, of this post anyway, how would you make a documentary about him, when you can sum up the story in a simple statement – he’s a man who can’t possibly win but goes ahead anyway.
Two days before America’s mid-term elections, the NYT released an intriguing video about the singular run for office of Mike Minter and his effort to rekindle interest in Texas’ Democratic party. The NYT video was made by Marco Ricci as part of his larger documentary project, A Million to One, the story of first-time candidates fighting to unseat incumbents in two of the nation’s most partisan districts.
Here’s how Marco Ricci characterizes Mike Minter’s story:
“The Texas 13th congressional district. Forty-thousand square miles of endless plains. It’s larger than 16 states and has more cattle than people. Republicans outnumber democrats 9 to 1. In the 2014 primary, seven counties in the district didn’t register a single Democratic vote. Yet over the past 6 months Democrat Mike Minter has put 30,000 miles on his pick-up, crisscrossing the district in an attempt to turn the 13th blue.”
The video is just below. I found it well-made and intriguing. It’s also a great example of storytelling when, on the face of it, there just isn’t that much of a story to tell. It’s a credit to Marco Ricci that he sustains our interest throughout his piece, Lone Star Candidate.
In Lone Star Candidate Marco Ricci creates a simple but effective story structure. He starts with giving us a sense of the challenge and introduces his subject, Mike Minter, as a friendly and charming candidate.
He may be a man on a mission, but he’s hardly an egomaniac, or a fool. He confides to us early on that he won’t win. Still, Marco Ricci shows us moments with Minter that emphasize his folksy charm, good will and determination as he pursues his hopeless battle.
I like that Ricci felt he didn’t need to add the presence of Minter’s Republican opponent. After all, the story is exploring what makes a man pursue the impossible dream, so Ricci was comfortable letting the facts speak for themselves. I also like his text insertions – they give the visuals a larger context. The facts are presented simply and directly in support of the storytelling.
At first, the video focuses on Minter’s drive and optimism. Later, it takes a turn as he talks about what fuels politics in America – money. We can see, he’s running his campaign on a handshake and a smile. As the piece shows us some of the obstacles that lay in Mike’s path, you begin to understand the toll the campaign takes on him, his business and his family. Still, the video ends on an optimistic note.
As affable as Mike Minter appears, you can tell that Marco Ricci has worked hard to gain his trust. Ricci reveals an intimate, vulnerable portrait of a man confronting significant difficulties. Still, we can’t help but admire his quixotic nature and determination to go forward. I like Mike’s analogy at the end of the piece, as he says if you want to pick up a full-grown bull, you have to start by picking up a calf.
What do you think? What’s your take on Marco Ricci’s video about a man pursuing an impossible mission? Leave a comment and let me know.