With a goal of informing voters about the true nature of politics and encouraging them to vote, the League of Women Voters will present a free Election Year Film Festival on four Saturday evenings at the Medford library.
The events will start at 7 p.m., when an area officer-holder will introduce each film, followed by a public discussion of issues raised in each movie. The films will start at 8 p.m., says event organizer Marylou Schnoes.
On Sept. 22, Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker will introduce "The American President," with Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Michael J. Fox and Martin Sheen. It follows a widowed president who dates a lobbyist and must cope with hounding by the media and conflicts of interest stemming from the lobbyist's political agenda.
On Oct. 13, Medford City Councilman Al Densmore will introduce "Wag the Dog," starring Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson. It depicts the president caught in a sex scandal with an underage girl, with aides and Hollywood producers staging a phony war and demonizing Muslims to distract the media and the public — all before 9/11 and the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair.
On Oct. 20, Jacksonville Mayor Paul Becker will introduce "Primary Colors," with John Travolta, Kathy Bates and Billy Bob Thornton. It's a parody of President Clinton and the seamy underbelly of sex scandals, lies and blackmail that haunt big-time politics.
On Nov. 3, political activist and former Jackson County Commissioner Jeff Golden will introduce the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate," with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep. It explores the reality, Schnoes says, that "we don't really know candidates" — and that too many of our nation's policies and history have been written by vice presidents who were selected by a small number of powerful insiders and then acceded to the presidency.
The League, which is nonprofit and nonpartisan, is "trying to get some sex appeal into the electoral process," says Schnoes. "We want people to think and learn deeper than the soundbites and to explore the issues more thoroughly. Hollywood is good for this. They can bring out everything and reach people and get them interested."
Voter interest this year is "dismayingly low," says Schnoes. "I ask people if they vote, and they give many reasons why they don't, such as 'they're all crooks,' 'I'm too busy,' and 'I'm not informed enough.' "
The League tries to get citizens to realize the critical importance of voting, which can end up influencing big parts of everyday life, including whether we go to war, how we exercise our civil liberties — or don't — who we can marry, what we can do about unwanted pregnancies, and the amount of funding for education.
A focus of the four movies, Schnoes says, is the unrestricted political advertising that can boost one candidate and condemn the opponent, a system not allowed in the United Kingdom.
"They have to get all their information from reading," she said. "We don't have the most functional democracy in the world."
The League's mission, she notes, is to get people more involved in the process, to help them realize how the media influence opinion, and to get them to vote. League members are prepared to register voters on the spot, which they can do at the first two movies, before the registration deadline for the November election.
The films will be shown in the Medford library's large meeting room at 205 S. Central Ave.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.