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Newark Mayoral Race, the Movie

By Jason George
April 24, 2005

Toward the end of "Street Fight," a documentary that chronicles the 2002 Newark mayoral race, a young girl shakes hands with the challenger, Cory Booker, and then raises them to the camera, squealing that they smell differently after the encounter.

"It smells like the future," she incorrectly predicts just days before Mr. Booker fails to unseat Mayor Sharpe James.

Stimulation of the senses is what makes "Street Fight" so engrossing. Yet it is not the sense of smell, but sound, that brings alive the contentious race that drew national attention. There is deafening applause as Mr. James announces his candidacy, followed by Marshall Curry, the film's director, being shuffled out of the rally by Mr. James's security agents. You also hear the absence of noise and the muffled sniffles at Booker headquarters when the disappointing numbers begin coming in on Election Night, contrasted with a rousing sing-along at James's headquarters. It is clearly not finesse or subtlety - but volume - that rules in Newark.

The film - which can be seen on Friday at 5:45 p.m., Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. at Regal Cinemas in Battery Park City as part of the TriBeCa Film Festival - pulls no punches when it comes to strong-arm tactics on the part of Mr. James's campaign or his supporters. Mr. Curry, who admits to being a Booker supporter, said that Mr. Booker had no hand in the editing of the film. "I didn't go in saying I was going to make a film that was going to help Cory Booker," he said. "I was interested in making a film first and foremost."

Mr. Booker called "Street Fight" a "fair and accurate representation of the very challenging campaign of 2002." As for Mr. James, a spokeswoman said the mayor had not plans to see what he considered propaganda. "It's just something to bring him down," she said.

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