Over 16 years and 5 elections, Alex Bhathal has stood as the candidate for the Greens in the electorate of Batman. It has been held by Labor for decades. But Alex’s team has managed to build support to the point where the margin between the two parties is now only 1%. The Candidate follows Alex as she runs as the endorsed Greens representative for the sixth time. If she wins, it will be a game changer for herself and her party. This fly on the wall documentary takes the audience behind the scenes of Alex’s 2018 campaign. As she marches in support of refugees, rehearses speeches, memorises details of complex policies and spruikes at the local railway stations, The Candidate also explores her political awakening at the age of eight. As the daughter of a Sikh Malay father and Anglo Australian mother, she grew up in the shadow of the White Australia policy which denied her father the citizenship she and her mother enjoyed. The final dismantling of that policy in 1972 enabled her physician father to become an Australian citizen. That day opened her young eyes to the power of politics, and its ability to affect the lives of ordinary people. She was hooked. In this election campaign, Alex is also running against a different type of opposition candidate. After nearly losing the seat in 2016, Labor has changed strategy. Ged Kearney is a progressive woman with a high profile. Former president of the national trade union movement she is an experienced campaigner backed by the might and money of a major political party. Alex and the Greens must marshal a different arsenal of election winning weapons. Alex has incredible brand recognition. Her multicultural heritage represents that of over 50% of the electorate. And Batman, once solidly working class, is now considered the most progressive electorate in the country and the Greens and Alex are nothing if not progressive. With the eyes of the country are on this electoral battle, Alex and her Greens Team are excited and hopeful. Years of hard work may finally pay off in this now or never campaign. But disaster strikes midway through the campaign. Elements within Alex’s own branch of the Greens start a media-led smear campaign against her. Through a drip feed of leaks to media outlets, Alex is accused of bullying and branch stacking. While party leaders deny the claims and re-iterate their support for Alex, the anonymous leakers make it clear that they would rather the Greens lose the election than Alex be elected as a federal member of parliament. The Candidate follows Alex through these grim weeks up to the day, and night, of the election. It captures moments of private despair and public courage. She faces repeated media questions about the accusations, as she and her team try to rally their supporter base and get their message out. On Saturday 17th March 2018, as the voters of Batman cast their votes, the pollsters describe the outcome of the election too close to call…
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
This project aims to contribute to the public discourse on the system of parliamentary democracy in this country. As stated in the synopsis, democratic institutions and systems of government are under pressure the world over (1). As also stated, the electorate increasingly hold politicians in contempt (2). The Candidate provides some hope in this bleak landscape in providing an insight into the inner working of this system and the often admirable motivations of the politicians, party members and volunteers that are essential to our democratic system of government. This project will be suitable for philanthropic foundations that support public discourse and a greater awareness of public, government and democratic institutions.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
The major outcome of this project is to add to an informed public discourse about our parliamentary democracy. It can do this because of the unusually ‘inner sanctum access’ that the filmmakers have achieved, which provides a human face to the political process. The impact will be measured by the success of the exhibition and distribution strategy. This is aimed as television, on-line, film festivals and educational institutions.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
The production team is talking to academics specialising in the study of democratic systems, nationally and internationally at the University of Melbourne and RMIT university to explore the connection between the documentary and their research. The producers will also be looking to establish a relationship with a distributor who is in the education market.