One October

Edward Norton has had one of the more interesting Hollywood careers in recent memory, primarily because he is never shy about always doing what he wants. He won critics over with his performances in Primal Fear and American History X. After starring in Fight Club, Norton seemed like he was poised to take over the world. Norton’s next movie after the Chuck Palahniuk adaptation is also his only directing credit (though he is in the middle of filming his second), the mild-mannered rom-com Keeping The Faith. That was followed up by the intensity of The Score and the screwball zaniness of Death To Smoochy. Aside from Norton’s interest in them, these films share very little in common with each other. This tendency has stayed with him through the decades – appearing in MCU’s The Incredible Hulk and having a cameo in The Invention Of Lying just because why not?

Aside from his Hollywood career, Norton is an outspoken activist, serving on the board for Enterprise Community Partners, which seeks to create affordable housing for all. He also helps Crowdrise get its name out there for fundraising through micro-donations. So it should come as no shock to discover he is heavily invested in politics as well, having produced the excellent documentary By The People: The Election Of Barack Obama in 2009. Now, when everything in politics seems to either be the biggest deal ever or so uncertain it will make your head spin, here comes One October, executive produced by Norton, to help bring clarity to the confused.

“…conduct interviews with any and everyone about their views on…whether Barack Obama has a shot at winning the election versus John McCain…”

New York City radio personality Clay Pigeon, works for 91.1 FM WFMU, takes to the streets to conduct interviews with any and everyone about their views on NYC and the 2008  political climate. Its past, what the city represents, where it might be heading, and most importantly, whether Barack Obama has a shot at winning the election versus John McCain. He interviews an elderly African-American couple and the husband states that he will vote for Obama. But he grew up in the 1960s so even Obama seems tame to him when one looks at the Black Panthers and other revolutionary types. Another interviewee is from Germany and moved to NYC because he loved how it was portrayed in movies. Another woman is angry about the gentrification of Harlem and hopes that Obama can do something to address the disparity of wealth that is forcing people out of their homes.

There are a dozen or so interviews all hitting the same questions, but everyone has wildly different answers. Director Rachel Shuman is smart enough to realize that just looking at Pigeon interviewing these people on the streets would get a bit boring, no matter how compelling an argument is being made. She films the city as well- kids playing in the park, a man with a “Free Hugs” sign hugging all that comes up, people feeding the pigeons, and street vendors selling their wares. Over these daily encounters plays either Pigeon’s radio show or Paul Brill’s evocative score. David Sampliner’s cinematography makes the city come alive as only NYC can. A breathtaking sequence depicts an assortment of people coming upon some dancers in a park and either joining in or admiring the fun and skill of the performers. It is filmed with such exuberance that the hope that permeated the run-up to Obama’s first term explodes off the screen.

“…elevates its simple premise by showing the resilience of the human spirit…”

In the best New York moment of the movie, a small gaggle of French exchange students, no older than 13, talk to a vendor selling politic wares. Specifically, condoms with images of Obama, McCain, and Sarah Palin on them. The kids don’t get it at first and the man, bemused by the language barrier, finally gets through to them and everyone bursts out laughing, embarrassed by it all. Tristan, the German man who is interviewed, does not realize it is an interview until after it has begun. He and Pigeon both crack up at the misunderstanding and the discussion continues.

One October was filmed in 2008, and that poignant hope for the future is what the present needs now. Led by a personable and intelligent host in Clay Pigeon, One October is simple in its concept. But it elevates its simple premise by showing the resilience of the human spirit and the little moments that connect us all. No matter where we hail from, what we do, or what we want, humankind is fascinating.

One October (2018) Directed by Rachel Shuman. Written by Rachel Shuman, Annie Bruno, Whitney Henry-Lester. Starring Clay Pigeon.

Grade: A

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