Shame of a City: a Philadelphia mayoral election documentary

In 2003, the Philadelphia mayoral contest was set to be of epic proportions.

It was a rematch of now-incumbent Mayor John F. Street and Republican Sam Katz. In 1999, Katz lost by less than 8,000 votes, the closest election in the history of mayoral popular votes in Philadelphia, particularly considering more than 425,000 votes were cast.

Filmmaker Tigre Hill followed the Katz campaign throughout the election right through Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2003, when it was announced that a recording device was found in Room 215 of City Hall, Street’s mayoral office, and that it was part of an FBI probe.

It became national, indeed, even international news, and Hill chronicled the entire thing. The film is captivating if only for the sheer drama that unfolds, heightened by the normal characters that only Philadelphia can create.

The film was released to DVD on April 10 and there have been a handful of showings. I got to see it myself, as a friend gave me an advanced copy before it was released in April. Last month, Hill was on MSNBC promoting the film, interviewed by Michael Smerconish.

I strongly recommend it for anyone interested in urban politics, documentary work or Philadelphia generally.

See the trailer here on the film’s Web site or as a Quicktime here.

Image is screen shot from documentary.

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