“Keeping the Peace,” a new documentary co-directed by JJ Garvine and Tai Parquet which won the audience award at the 2009 Philadelphia Independent Film Festival, provides an in-depth look into the long-shot political campaign of Green Party member Michael Berg in 2006.
Michael Berg lost his son, Nick, in Iraq in a very public way in May 2004. For a long-time anti-war activist like the elder Berg, this tragic event provided the spark for him to run for Congress in Delaware on a “get out of Iraq now” platform. “Keeping the Peace” documents his run, while also shedding light on the in-fighting that occurs in politics, especially in a state the size of Delaware.
As the race unfolds, Berg establishes himself as a man on a mission, passionate about his issue and not afraid to get his hands dirty in the political process. The problem is, though, is that his campaign is poorly run and unfocused, putting him further and further behind his fellow challengers.
This is a great documentary for political junkies and those who cheer for the underdog. Michael Berg runs on his heart, and his unpolished campaign is refreshing in this era of pre-packaged, media-friendly sound bites. Of course, this also ends up hurting him in the end, as most people are too apathetic to look beyond the glossy sheen of slickly manipulated media. A telling moment is when Berg attempts to film a campaign commercial seemingly off the cuff, riffing on progressive tropes and winding up with something that is not half bad.
The film also delves into the difficulty the Green Party has had establishing themselves as a true alternative to the two-party system. Berg is barred from debates and public forums, culminating in a stand-off that is a true trampling of his First Amendment rights.
This is a fine underdog story and an insightful examination of American politics from the outside looking in.