Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by Chris Durrance and Barak Goodman, Slay the Dragon is a new documentary taking a look at one of the most pressing political issues of all time. However, even though the film has obviously noble intentions, it doesn’t offer much information regarding the issue beyond what one would learn in a basic middle school civics class.
In the film, Durrance and Goodman take a look at the political phenomenon that is gerrymandering and the group of activists who are working to fight its influence over the government. Anyone who is familiar with how government operates will undoubtedly be aware of how substantial an impact this issue has on politics.
It would be inaccurate to say that gerrymandering is an easy topic to explain because there are so many levels of deception that go into it, but the film simply scratches the surface on the consequences of these political actions. While this does help the film be more easily accessible to the general voting populace, it likely won’t have the political impact it needs to make the difference.
More than anything, the film simply spews facts and figures to the audience. While this information does a good job of communicating the urgency of the situation, it fails to effectively explain why the average American should care. It’s a call to arms that doesn’t give the people a reason to fight, and as a result, the film fails in its efforts.
That isn’t to say there is nothing worthwhile in the film — if nothing else, the film encourages audiences to take a more active and participatory role in the government. Since it is the elected officials that are doing this manipulation, the easiest way for people to voice their displeasure is to vote, hence why the film is being released in an election year.
Additionally, the film includes the voice of some activists and politicians who are working to prevent these crooked officials from continuing to take advantage of the people who put them in office in the first place. While it would have been nice if more of the film’s runtime had been dedicated to exploring their part in the story, their portion of the film is very compelling.
On a technical level, Durrance and Goodman’s film is very polished and done in a way as to make the information as easily consumable as possible. Techniques used to simplify the information being presented to the audience include interviews with experts who translate some of the jargon and graphics used to make the information more visual. For the most part, it works.
Chris Durrance and Barak Goodman’s Slay the Dragon obviously means well, but there was a lot of room for it to cut deeper than it does. Ultimately, the fact that it doesn’t cover much new political ground means that it really isn’t a necessary watch.
Slay the Dragon hits VOD on April 3.