What 537 Votes does is revisit the 2000 Election and in doing so, audiences get to relive the trauma that came with all the chads.
Al Gore won Florida. No, wait a minute, George W. Bush won Florida. Well, I guess it means time for Gore to concede the election. The dreaded words: TOO CLOSE TO CALL! So much for Gore’s concession, we’re going to recount the ballots! Gore brings in former Secretary of State Warren Christopher to help with his legal battle while Bush counters with former Secretary of State, James Baker. Gore would call for a manual recount of the 10,750 “no vote” ballots consisting of hanging, dimpled, and pregnant chads. Ah, it’s a nightmare!
Any American old enough at the time certainly cannot forget what happened on December 12, 2000. This is when the 2000 election was decided by the United States Supreme Court. I don’t need to remind you that it took a conservative majority to end the manual recounts. Even though Vice President Al Gore won the overall popular vote, Florida’s electoral votes put George W. Bush over the top. The rest is history. I do not have to remind you of this.
There are interviews with key insiders but the archival footage is also key to understand the context. It’s not an understatement to stress that Florida was a battleground state. Director Billy Corben, who produces with Alfred Spellman, sets the tone to remind us what was happening in Florida. Not just on or after election day but in the months leading up to November. While recounts and hanging chads are what everyone remembers from 2000, so many other things happened before people went to the polls.
One thing that the film does is remind us of Elian Gonzalez and the controversy surrounding him in early 2000. What happened in this case would prove to be disastrous for the Gore-Lieberman campaign in Florida. An international custody battle more than the hanging chads were what propelled Bush into the presidency. There was a lot of outrage among the conservative Cuban American population in Miami. While they’re seeking to ruin Gore’s chances at the presidency, Miami-Dade County’s Democratic mayor Alex Penelas avoids the Gore campaign by any means.
I’m not sure what the best word is that describes watching the film right now. Traumatic, maybe? I already I said but I can’t say it enough–the 2000 election came down to Florida and ultimately, the United States Supreme Court. This also speaks to how important it is to vote on Election Day because every vote matters. How you vote can determine who ends up sitting on the Supreme Court. What we saw in Florida were very close races where both the Bush-Cheney and Gore-Lieberman campaigns battled it out in the courtroom.
This is a very different film from Screwball. Imagine if Corben reused some of those tactics with having kids in the recreations. Alas, that isn’t the case because this film is about a bigger picture. Corben and Rakontur producing partner Alfred Spellman deliver a film that takes a look at everything that was happening in Florida at that time.
There are so many political documentaries out right now but 537 Votes is a real reminder of why every vote matters even if the Supreme Court thought differently.
DIRECTOR: Billy Corben
FEATURING: Roger Stone, Joe Geller, Al Cardenas, Rick Sanchez, Armando Gutierrez, Brad Blakeman, Alex Penelas, Ann Louise Bardach, Jeff Garcia, Michael Putney, Mitchell Berger, Fernand Amandi