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Feeling lost? These South Florida filmmakers say voting is the cure

Dennise Perez, director of photography and actress Carey Brianna Hart filming a scene
Jose Lima
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Dennise Perez, director of photography and actress Carey Brianna Hart

Screenwriter Bill Spring says activism by the survivors of the Parkland school shooting was the inspiration for "I Elect: Power Every Four Years."

The woman is in a windowless room, talking to herself. She speaks about the loss of her husband, school shootings, racial injustice and about her own isolation in the midst of COVID-19.

And she admits, at one point, to feeling completely lost.

“This whole year has been . . . why don’t we call it what it is? A DISASTER!"

The character’s musings about power and what kind she wields underpin a short film titled "I Elect: Power Every Four Years." It’s one of the movies screening next month during the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.

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The script was originally conceived by playwright Bill Spring as a one-woman, one-act scene written for the stage.

Spring says he wrote the original monologue in response to the Parkland school shooting and the subsequent activism of the young survivors of the tragedy.

"All they want to do is go to school. And they can't even do that without living in some form of terrorism," he says. "They were going out into the street and saying that this can't continue."

Or as his character, Bella, expresses it:

"You know the country is screwed up when children have to go out and fix everything we've broken!"

The film, which Spring called "a labor of love" was produced last fall. Rehearsals were done via Zoom and the movie was shot in one day with an iPhone camera. The whole team was racing the clock to get the project done well before Election Day 2020.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the wake of a tumultuous spring and summer that saw the murder of George Floyd and nationwide protests, Spring saw the film as a clarion call to disillusioned citizens to get out and vote.

"That's how lives change," he said.

When the film live-streamed before election day, the producers encouraged viewers to donate to Engage Miami, an organization that helps young people get involved in the political process.

Behind, and in front of, the camera are two names well known to South Florida theater audiences. The film is directed by award-winning director and playwright Ricky J. Martinez. The role of Bella is played by actress Carey Brianna Hart.

For Hart, civic engagement — especially in the form of voting — is a significant part of her family history. In the early 1960s, her mother skipped out on her college glee club practice to join other Black students at a lunch counter sit-in to protest segregation. At the height of the civil rights movement, Hart's mother was jailed for registering Black people to vote.

Hart remembers vividly the tongue-lashing she got from her mom in 1988 when she casually told her that she sat out that year's presidential election.

"She was very, very upset with me," she says. "I haven't missed an election since."

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"I Elect: Power Every Four Years"

  • Starring Carey Brianna Hart
  • Written by Bill Spring
  • Directed by Ricky J. Martinez
  • Produced by Jose Lima
  • Director of Photography: Dennise Perez

The film will screen next month during the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival