William & Mary

W&M Students Discuss Gerrymandering

William & Mary’s Global Film Festival included a documentary and accompanying conversation about gerrymandering in Virginia and the nation. The festival screened Slay the Dragon, a documentary about gerrymandering in the United States. Directed by Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance, the film takes a deep dive into gerrymandering and the stories of two groups who challenged electoral districts.

Gerrymandering is prolific in the US and gives one party advantage over another in an electoral district, paving the way for one candidate to be elected. Today, it is a hot-button issue and marked by some as evidence for a broken American electoral process. Subjects featured in the documentary are on the front lines of change, working to dismantle this system from grassroots campaigns in Michigan, to a Supreme Court case originating in Wisconsin.  

In addition to screening the documentary, the film festival also hosted a conversation with David Daley, who appears in the film. Daley is an author and journalist who has written for the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and New York Magazine. He brought his expertise on gerrymandering and insight to the filming process to engage with students on the current state of our electoral system.

Students additionally sat down with Brian Cannon and Liz White for a workshop on creating a transparent system for designing electoral maps. Cannon and White work with OneVirginia2021, a civic non-profit organization that advocates for non-partisan redistricting in Virginia.

Thanks to W&M Film Festival’s work, both conversations were free for students to attend. This is the 13th annual festival, which brings W&M and the greater Williamsburg community together for a celebration of film and live performances. This four-day event featured screenings of Oscar nominated films, such as Knives Out and Parasite.

Though true change requires enduring dedication, documentaries like Slay the Dragon begin important dialogues about the current state of our government. Through the hard work of individuals like Daley, Cannon, and White, alongside student advocates, the future appears bright.