This film won the audience choice award at the Tribeca Film Festival, and it certainly deserved it. Amazingly enough, this is Marshall Curry's first film. I truly hope to see more films from him.
While the subject of national and international politics has been the subject of many critically acclaimed documentaries, Street Fight concentrates on the 2002 Mayoral election in one urban city, Newark, N.J., which is wracked by homelessness, drug addiction and poverty. The movie is perhaps one of the most compelling and interesting documentaries I have ever seen. The film's title is quite appropriate because Television ads are meaningless, but rather these hard-fought battles are won on the street.
The film's director tried to follow the campaigns of both the incumbent Mayor, Sharpe James, who has been Mayor for 16 years and the campaign of the upstart 1st term Councilman, Cory Booker. While the Booker campaign welcomes the filmmaker, Mayor James is less welcoming and outwardly hostile. The film quickly evolves into a compelling David vs. Goliath epic.
You'll watch as Mayor James instructs the Newark police officers act like Storm Troopers intimidating and assaulting campaign workers blatantly violating state and federal law. You'll be outraged as you watch those same police officers attack the film's director in broad daylight on the sidewalks in an attempt to shut down the documentary. Mayor James paints himself as a political villain more despicable than Senator Joseph Paine from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington". The scary part is that the film is not fictional. Had it not been recorded on film, you would not believe it. It's not often that a film angers me. This one did.
Booker tries to campaign on the issues, but we see how effective James' tactics are. Both candidates are Black, but Mayor James constantly refers to Booker as light-skinned and "white" because Booker was educated at Stanford, Yale Law School and was a Rhodes Scholar. Looking at the numerous dirty tricks employed in the campaign, it is no wonder that Sharpe James has never lost an election. Although Booker loses the election, he wins the moral battle and the audience by running an ethical and admirable campaign. The closing scene is Booker's unveiling of his 2006 campaign, which received an ovation from the Tribeca audience.