Four hundred hours of video footage following three local canvassing departments during the 2020 election has been compiled into a 90 minute documentary film which tells the story of the largely …
Four hundred hours of video footage following three local canvassing departments during the 2020 election has been compiled into a 90 minute documentary film which tells the story of the largely invisible – but indispensable – workforce that navigated Covid and the election to make sure every vote counted. A free, virtual screening of “No Time to Fail” will take place virtually on Oct. 27 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a panel discussion featuring election officials.
“No Time to Fail,” follows Cranston, Central Falls and Providence’s Canvassing Departments as they prepare for the 2020 election amidst the pandemic. With a record number of mail ballots sent to voters, the canvassing staff is in a race against time as they deal with mail ballot questions while preparing for in-person voting with social distancing regulations.
The documentary had its Rhode Island debut at Providence’s Avon Cinema this past weekend where directors and producers – Sara Archambault and Margo Guernsey – of Arch and Bow Films were available Friday through Sunday night to answer movie goers’ questions about the documentary. The cameras followed staff members around the office, in the car and even to some of their residences.
Archambault said the documentary film went into post production this past June and the final product will be shown in theaters around the country; she hopes to eventually have the film available on streaming services.
The documentary opens with Cranston City Hall’s Canvassing Department in early fall where there is already a sense of urgency in addressing voters’ needs. The documentary gives viewers a timeline leading up to election day – all the way through Jan. 4, 2021.
The film focuses on local election administrators working around the clock to secure the vote for their community. Whether it’s Rob Rock, Director of Elections, Secretary of State Office, delivering mail ballots to several homes or Providence’s Administrator of Elections Kathy Placencia setting up 10 extra polling booths so the line of voters wrapping around Providence City Hall moves quicker, election staff members seek to ensure they don’t fail the voters.
Of course there are the issues that come along the way such as uncooperative DS200s (machines used to collect ballots), Cranston’s USB having a glitch, people receiving the wrong information of where to vote and people sending their mail ballots back to the state – writing in sharpie that they will vote in person among other profanity statements.
On top of local anxiety, the political tension between parties on the national level is added to the film with Archambault and Guernsey adding clips of former President Donald Trump calling election fraud and to stop the vote.
Cranston’s Registrar/Director of Elections Nick Lima makes many appearances in the documentary, adding that people saying election officials can’t be trusted is dangerous because going down that road can lead to damage that he’s not sure how it can be undone.
Despite the constant bustling around, the documentary does show the moments of fun throughout the process – whether it’s taking a few minutes to dance around and take pictures in the snow or blast Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” while delivering mail ballots.
There are also the voters that surprise the Canvassing Department like the 81 year-old woman who voted for the first time and the woman who went into labor but wanted to stop at City Hall to vote before going to the hospital.
Canvassing Department staff talk about how the public thinks they aren’t doing their jobs when in fact they are constantly busy. A behind the scenes look opens viewers’ eyes to all that needs to take place prior to an election. For most people, they just show up one day in November and vote, but “No Time to Fail” reveals all that goes into conducting a successful election.
To learn more about the Oct. 27 free showing and to register, visit: www.notimetofailfilm.com.
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