George Michaels (Archival)
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Jeremy Workman, Robert Lyons
Movie Review: Deciding Vote
I will, of course, confess my bias toward Robert Lyons and Jeremy Workman's Deciding Vote, a 20-minute doc short that I found captivating enough to award it my Richard D. Propes Social Impact Award during the 2023 Indy Shorts International Film Festival here in my hometown of Indianapolis.
The film rather magnificently captures the relatively unsung story of George Michaels, a former New York Assemblyman who in 1970 represented a conservative Catholic district during a time when the pro-choice/abortion rights movement was growing. Recognizing that his vote would likely cost him his political career, Michaels cast the deciding vote by switching his vote at the last minute and ensuring the passage of abortion rights in the state of New York. It was a groundbreaking decision that would eventually lead to other decisions nationwide and eventually the now recently overturned Roe vs. Wade decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.
“What’s the use of getting elected, or re-elected, if you don’t stand for something," Michaels would say in a decision that would, in fact, cost him his political career.
The Emmy nominated team of Workman and Lyons have crafted a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant short film that captured the social impact award that Heartland Film created in my name by crafting a film about political courage and the willingness to do what one perceives to be as the right thing even when that decision comes with great personal cost. Deciding Vote had its world premiere at Tribeca on its way to Indy Shorts and it once again displays this team's gift for capturing a richly human story told with intelligence and compassion. The Michaels family participated in the making of the film and it's their presence throughout that left me, quite honestly, in tears.
What made Deciding Vote different for me was the ability of Workman and Lyons to tell a balanced story that really looks at and embraces the humanity of everyone involved. In a world 50+ years later that has become significantly more divisive and polarized, Deciding Vote rather remarkably avoids leaning into that division and instead immerses itself in the exploration of the power of this decision personally and universally.
Deciding Vote is a bit of a change-up for the filmmakers, especially Workman, whose previous film The World Before Your Feet was also reviewed by The Independent Critic. This film could have so easily been a rather straightforward and dry doc. While it's largely an archival based film, Deciding Vote has truly meaningful interviews and engaging stories to flesh it out.
The end result is a simply extraordinary short doc that affirms how one person can truly make a difference in the world and how sometimes a single decision can leave a lasting social impact. Deciding Vote is currently continuing on its festival circuit and it should continue to experience tremendous success with its compelling and thoughtful narrative.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic