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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Slay the Dragon is a documentary that depicts gerrymandering -- the practice of redrawing voting districts' lines to make it extremely likely that a particular political party will win -- as a heist. It argues that democracy is being subverted by the secret plans of political strategists and tells viewers what they can do about it. While the film may be perceived as partisan because so much modern gerrymandering is being driven by the Republican Party, the movie acknowledges the maneuvering instigated by both major parties through history. And some of it is explained with pride by the "Project REDMAP" architects themselves, and there's balance in the form of a couple of Republican politicians who speak out about the dangers of the practice. It's crucial for voters of all persuasions to understand why and how extreme gerrymandering got underway in 2008 and how, in one example, it affected the health of an entire city. One storyline follows the efforts of Michigan's Voters Not Politicans founder Katie Fahey, an ebullient, courageous, but "regular" young woman who becomes a successful leader through effective communication, perseverance, and teamwork. Iffy content is limited to strong language in a nerve-wracking moment ("holy s--t," "f--k").
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What's the story?
The title of SLAY THE DRAGON refers to ending the practice of gerrymandering, which is the act of redrawing voting districts' lines to make it extremely likely that a particular political party will win. Following the activists who are trying to put an end to the practice, the film explores how damaging redistricting is to democracy and explains why it's turned the American political system upside down.
Is it any good?
This film about the subversion of America's democracy is timely, relevant, and urgent. In the most straightforward yet suspenseful way, directors Barack Goodman and Chris Durrance lay out how gerrymandering works, why political parties do it, and why it's tearing our country apart. For those who've done the math and can't figure out why the political power is skewed and divisive, this one's for you -- and you will be aghast. Political strategists are presented as evil geniuses, and Chris Janowski -- the brains behind the successful Republican gerrymandering effort Project REDMAP -- is proud to explain how the Republicans made sure elections would go their way.
The filmmakers try to make Slay the Dragon nonpartisan, but there's no way around it: It's calling out the GOP for manipulating and often defying the will of the people. "Red" voters may be quick to call the film a liberal conspiracy theory, but please watch it first. It's got emails, recordings, and even interviews with architects of the effort who are pretty smug about what they've pulled off. If they're willing to tell you, why wouldn't you listen? And, by following the efforts of Fahey -- a young woman with no political background or experience who impulsively thought she'd start a Facebook group to raise awareness about unfair redistricting and wound up starting a movement -- the film brings hope that America's youth will be able to undo the damage that's been done.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of voting. Why is it important for citizens to be represented?
Why is civic engagement important?
What makes Katie Fahey an effective leader? Discuss how she and others in the movement demonstrate perseverance. How is she courageous? Contrast her transparency in trying to effect change with the secretive back-room dealings laid out in Slay the Dragon.
Do documentaries have to be unbiased? Do you think this film has a political bias? Do you think this type of information could be revealed in a way that's more balanced -- or is this about as balanced as it could be?
- On DVD or streaming: July 7, 2020
- Cast: Katie Fahey, David Daley, Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Directors: Barak Goodman, Chris Durrance
- Studios: Participant Media, Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Communication, Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief strong language
- Last updated: July 8, 2020
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