It’s a wonder any laws get passed in this country.
The Northwest Film Center in Portland, Ore., has been showcasing a series on Human Rights this fall. Playing Wednesday, Oct. 2, is a well-done documentary entitled “Last Best Chance.” It begins with John McCain reading an account of a death from dehydration in the Mexican dessert.
Early on McCain and Sen. Edward Kennedy co-sponsored a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Then McCain ran for president and conservatives protested the proposed legislation. McCain dropped his sponsorship.
The rest of the story is documented in this gentle chronicle of the death of Kennedy’s dream for immigration reform.
Muted, soft voices alternate the narration. Gentle music leads the viewer through the hectic pace of Capital Hill politics. Like a funeral dirge, the film ebbs as the bill gets into trouble.
The film gives a keen slice of Kennedy’s savvy and dedication to those unprotected. His sense of humor at meetings, his oratorical brilliance and the mutual love between him and his staff blaze off the screen. This film reports the battles against race and class distinctions frustratingly woven throughout the amendments tacked to the bill. Hispanic Senator Mendoza from New Jersey cannot be convinced the ending bill is anything but xenophobic.
Before a last unsuccessful vote, Kennedy portends that why great countries fail is because they are unable to deal with the great problems facing them.
“Last Best Chance” is the 12th in a series entitled “How Democracy Words Now.” Though obviously in favor of the Democratic voice in the immigration bill, this film project has received funding from The MacArthur Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Open Society Institute, the Sundance Institute and other non-affiliated groups.
The only problem with “Last Best Chance,” this last entry in the sequence, is that it ends too soon. There is no epilogue, no written or spoken comment on the final immigration bill that is finally passed, and no word on Kennedy’s death.
However, “Last Best Chance” does show the traveling path of a bill in a system the viewer may come to regard as incredibly dishonest, corrupt and self-serving. Perhaps the real issue of this film is not to tout Kennedy, learn about Mexican immigration issues or even learn about the Immigration Reform Bill. Perhaps a more subversive role of this film is to show the problems that have occurred in the evolved nature of writing, introducing and campaigning for worthy and needed reforms. Without a doubt, this film shows how hard it might be to pass anything on Capitol Hill.
Directors: Michael Camerni and Sharon Robertson
Runtime: 100 minutes
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Follow Bev Questad on Twitter at http://twitter.com/questad.