"Street Fight" is Marshall Curry's documentary look at the 2002 mayoral race of Newark, New Jersey. The Oscar-nominated documentary follows young challenger Cory Booker, who finds out that he has a very tough road ahead of him in his battle to try and attempt to unseat long-time mayor, senator and career politican Sharpe James.
Booker is a young, idealistic Stanford and Yale grad who wants to improve the lives of the city's poor. Curry follows along as Booker is repeatedly pushed back (Curry is stopped by plainclothes officers while merely filming a James speech, he is asked to leave by police when trying to quietly campaign in a neighborhood, mayor's aides harass Booker, Booker's office is broken into and also, businesses that are pro-Booker start to lose business and get shut down. It all implodes when a fight literally breaks out during a debate.
Needless to say, Booker stands somewhere below the level of even an underdog and James pulls every tactic in the book, only to start topping himself with new lows (on election day, the power is turned off to voting places and machines are broken.) Making matters worse is that James is well-funded and has been upping his paycheck for years. Booker, on the other hand, faces a very difficult decision every time a bill for a rally or other necessary promotion comes in.
The film is admittedly one sided in terms of portraying Booker as the right choice. However, it certainly seems as if the filmmakers have no choice - while they present the facts regarding Sharpe's campaign, Sharpe's campaign will offer no word aside from an insincere apology from a campaign manager who seems like a parent unconcerned while watching their children try to beat up every other child on the playground. Sadly, many of the voters seem unwilling to entertain the notion of change, buying into every attack ad that James can produce. The campaign eventually becomes so brutal that it gets the focus of the rest of the nation.
"Street Fight" (nominated for an Oscar) is a fascinating, saddening and often intense look at how vicious politics can be on a city level, and how one with the intent to change for the better can be met with so much resistance. While this particular election took place in Newark, it should be something that everyone across the country should watch.
VIDEO: "Street Fight" is presented by Genius Products in the film's original 1.33:1 full-frame. While filmed with limited resources and basic cameras, the presentation still looks about as good as one can expect. Sharpness and detail remained solid throughout the show, with the exception of a few dimly-lit moments. The presentation suffered from some slight artifacting, but no edge enhancement or other issues were spotted. Colors also looked bright and natural.
SOUND: "Street Fight" is presented with a crisp, clear stereo soundtrack. Dialogue is always easy to hear and, in the few moments where it is not, subtitles are used.
EXTRAS: An interview with the director, where Curry spends some time discussing the making of the film, the candidates and more on some of the situations seen in the film.
Final Thoughts: "Street Fight" is an eye-opening look into how brutal even local politics can become. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a nice selection of supplements. Highly recommended.
The Film A-