Filmmaker targets young voters in documentary

Saturday, September 20, 2008 6:03 AM EDT
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — With Election Day fast approaching, many politicians and pundits are focusing on young adults as a key demographic.

One Connecticut teen decided to channel that interest into a documentary about young people and the voting process.

David Burstein, 19, spent two years interviewing lawmakers, activists, candidates and others in the political arena to produce “18 in ’08,” his film aimed at 17- to 24-year-olds who will be voting for the first time this year.

On Sunday, Guilford’s Women and Family Life Center will hold a screening of the 35-minute film, followed by a panel discussion with Burstein, who is originally from Weston, as well as state Sen. Ed Meyer, state Reps. Deb Heinrich and Patricia Widlitz, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Guilford First Selectman Carl Balestracci Jr.

The town’s registrars of voters are also scheduled to attend the event, allowing people to register to vote that day.

Leslie Krumholz, program director for the Women and Family Life Center, said she was inspired to organize the event after seeing the documentary at Guilford High School last winter.

“It’s a nonpartisan viewpoint looking at why and how kids are engaged or should be engaged in their communities,” Krumholz said. “We thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to engage the community and the Shoreline just given that the election is so much in the news.”

The movie has grown into an organization, also called 18 in ’08, with the goal of engaging young voters with the 2008 election.

Sunday’s screening in Guilford is one of hundreds across the country the group has organized in the past few months.

Burstein, who was in Louisiana this week for another screening, said that part of the film is a “call to action” for young people to become more involved with politics and their communities.

“In the early primaries and caucuses, we saw 6 million young people turn out and vote, which is just an absolute record number for a primary, and all signs point to an even greater turnout in the general election,” he said. “Now we have a chance to take that and turn it into political power.”

Now a sophomore at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, Burstein started the film when he was 16 and a student at Weston High School.

Prior to working on the film, he was the director of the Westport Youth Film Festival, which showcases movies by high school students.

The film, which was first released last June, coordinates with the 2008 election, but does not deal with the partisan campaigns.

“It doesn’t really address the election so much as it uses the election as an occasion to think about these things,” Burstein said.

He added that after the election is over, the 18 in ’08 organization will continue a focus on young people in politics.

“There’s going to be a lot of work to do after the election and we’re starting to think now about a long-term future and how we are going to take the millions of young people who turn out in this election and give them a continued voice,” he said.

The screening is free and starts at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Women and Family Life Center on Church Street.

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