On the small Pacific island of Tinian, a political battle is brewing. But you won’t see coverage or debate about it on CNN.
The island of Tinian was the launch point for the Enola Gay to Hiroshima in 1945 and is now a commonwealth of the US, making the native population of the island US citizens. The island replaced their old island clans with political parties, and in BIBA! ONE ISLAND 879 VOTES, we witness those parties and their candidates campaign during the days leading up to the island’s 16th democratic election.
Director Ben Bloodwell perfectly captures the “wild west” of this young democracy and the colorful characters that occupy it. We follow the powerful mayor, Jose P. San Nicolas, who has created a strong alliance of families to keep his son, Henry, in office, and Trenton Conner, a man who believes that new leadership is needed to effectively create change on the island. Then there’s the “independent” candidate: Ray Sakisat, a 52-year-old unemployed man who campaigns door to door and requests to have an official debate amongst the candidates. Though the political rallies feature pig roasts, gambling, and many cases of Bud Light, these are serious candidates who know what is at stake: the economy of their beautiful island, family honor, and the livelihood of its citizens.
BIBA! ONE ISLAND 879 VOTES is vital to see during this election year. It asks us to examine our own definitions of democracy and reconsider how we approach politics and the world.
Ben Bloodwell is a Philadelphia-based documentary cinematographer with nearly 20 films and TV shows to his credit, including DIRT! THE MOVIE, FREAKONOMICS, THE LAST GLADIATORS, and several episodes of the reality TV show Intervention. BIBA! ONE ISLAND 879 VOTES is Bloodwell’s directorial debut.