SF DOCFEST 2023 REVIEW! Directed by Sara Archambault and Margo Guernsey, No Time To Fail is as informative as it’s timely. The film was shot during the months leading up to the 2020 election. The filmmakers follow the hardworking election officials in a city in Rhode Island as they have to figure out how to get people to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, the directors either chose the best or worst election year to follow, given the horrific aftermath culminating in the devastating events of January 20, 2021.
Kathy Placencia, the administrator of elections, deals with the logistics of setting up polling locations. This includes rushing more voting booths out to combat the massive lines (2020 set a record in RI for voting turnout). Director of Elections of Rob Rock leaves the home base of Cranston City Hall to drive all over to deliver mail ballots to voters personally. He does this night or day, rain or shine. While he does this, he also stops to read all the candidate signs in yards or hung in windows. Why? To ensure every eligible person running properly shows up on the ballot.
No Time To Fail brilliantly places audiences into the shoes of these hardworking, dedicated people. Viewers feel the immense pressure and time crunch Rock, Placencia, and the others are under every second of every minute of the day. As a result, there’s a visceral rawness to the footage on display. What’s even more impressive is that this was all before the election.
“…election officials in a city in Rhode Island…get people to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The documentary goes from shining a light on an unknown part of voting to the awful things these unsung heroes had to endure due to lie after lie being spouted off by people in power who should know better. Protests gather outside city hall, death threats are received, and that’s not even the half of it. Archambault and Guernsey carefully set up everyone so that when the worst happens, it is heartbreaking and frustrating.
Can No Time To Fail change someone’s mind who bought into the lies spread by the former guy and his most ardent supporters? Hopefully, but the truth is that a few folks have been fed non-truths and baseless attacks on reality for so long that accepting how things actually are might be impossible for them. With that said, the film shows precisely how and why the rampant fraud accused of happening could not have actually happened on that large of a scale. But, of course, that is the reason every one of those cases got laughed out of court.
No Time To Fail is a thrilling on-the-ground account of how elections are run by the people running them. The behind-the-scenes is illuminating, though the film could have benefitted from diving a bit into the debate surrounding a federal-level rollout of guidelines versus every state doing it individually. But that is a minor blip, as once the elections happened and unpatriotic idiots lost their minds due to a number of lies, a sense of danger and sadness set in. The filmmakers wonderfully make everyone watching feel exactly how the election officials feel in every scene.
No Time To Fail screened at the 2023 SF DocFest.