The Tardy Times

1. Lulu asks why  
     millions don't vote

 2. Joy profiles Jack 
     Hall, union leader

Holler Back:
  (Not) Voting in an
   American Town

GEORGE W. BUSH won the popular vote in the 2004 presidential election by almost 3 million votes. Not voting: 78 million eligible Americans. Their story is reported, filmed, written and produced in a prize-winning documentary by Lulu Fries’dat. 
     “Non-voters are usually assumed to be apathetic and uninformed,” Lulu told the Tardy Times. “But detailed interviews with non-voters show that they feel angry at a system they see as corrupt and unresponsive.”
   She was surprised.
   “I thought I was going to give people reasons to participate in the process,” she told a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News.  “Instead, they gave me reasons to question the process.”

           Lulu Fries'dat

    Lulu produced the 47-minute documentary on a budget so thin that “shoestring” would sound good. Nonetheless, “Holler Back: (Not) Voting in an American Town” won a first prize at the Sunscreen Festival in Tampa Bay and was selected for the Philadelphia International, We the People, Women's, Seattle and Sacramento film festivals. As of the end of October, the documentary had been shown in nearly 40 campuses – including Oberlin, Kent State, Colorado State, Louisville and Harvard.
   She also set up a blog,, so loaded with information and opinion that it will long outlast the documentary’s focus on the 2004 election.
    Viewers were forced to adjust their preconceptions. Set in Allentown, Pa., “the film explores problems and possible solutions for the American electorate.” 
LULU, a former actor who is now a network video editor in New York, took her camera three days before the 2004 presidential election to Lehigh County – a swing county in a swing state. She located her subjects, interviewed them, shot the scenes and later edited them herself. It was hectic.
   “I had no budget for the movie,” she says. “My budget was the money I'd normally spend on buying new jeans and a blender, which I actually do still need.”
   An admiring report in the Allentown Call quoted Philadelphia International Film Festival programmer Scott Johnson, who said,  “Holler Back” is “a very well-produced piece.”   Lulu, who lives in Manhattan and works for network TV news operations, told the reporter, “I work in the media and it (voter apathy) is treated as a non-issue. About half of the population isn’t voting and we're covering our eyes. That's always bothered me.”
   In her summary, Lulu says supporters of Democratic candidate John Kerry had mobilized in Allentown against local conservative advocates of President George W. Bush in what she calls a “fierce battle of organizational skill and stamina.”
   “But what about the almost 40 percent of people who aren't going to vote? Listening to them describe the money, the lies, the spin, and the unreliable voting equipment is enough to make you wonder if it is worth voting. After all, what's the point of voting if your vote doesn't really count?”
LULU says the film constructs a bridge between  non-voters and activists, and both are honest and eloquent about what our democracy could be and what it is.
   Non-voters are asked to explain why they don't participate, to describe their feelings about the process and to explain what would it take for them to take part in the “the world's greatest democracy.”
   They express a lot of distrust. The schools, which no longer teach “civics,” share some of the blame. So do the news media, which are “dysfunctional.”  
   Lulu began her crusade when developing and directing voter registration public service announcements in 2004 for the VH1 cable channel. The star was Triumph the Comic Insult Dog from the “Late Night With Conan Brien.”
TO MAKE “Holler Back,” she created an independent production company, Shugah Films. Lulu is assisted by Maia Harris, consulting producer; Claire Missanelli, associate producer; Margarita Perez, production assisstant; Julia Dantchev, typography; and Nathan Evans, visual effects.  The website was designed by Rinze van Brug and developed by photographer Dima Miakichev.
  “This film is a chance,” according to the Website, “for non-voters and voters to exchange ideas and HOLLER BACK.”
 In an interview with Howard Gensler of the Philadelphia Daily News, Lulu said, “People watch the news and think they're informed, but they’re not.”
   She said conversation is the best way – better than punditry or the anger of talk radio – to get non-voters into the polling place.     
     “If each person who votes engages one person who doesn't vote," she says, "you can double the number of voters.”  

Lynn Ludlow

The Tardy Times
October 2008

Joy Chong-Stannard

Jack Hall:
His Life and Times

JACK HALL put the union label on paradise, but the memorable labor organizer from Frisco is now unremembered – even in Hawai’i.
    Joy Chong-Stannard wants that to change.
    A prolific producer of documentaries for public television, she works quietly without letup on biographies on people of significance in the history of Hawai’i.
  For nearly a decade her family has camped with ours after a chance meeting  on Kaua’i, but back in Honolulu her job is no vacation.
    Last year she produced, directed and edited “Jack Hall: His Life and Times.” It was shown Feb. 28 on KHET, the PBS station in Honolulu. Despite its uninformative title, the documentary must have surprised a new generation of Hawaiians who take for granted their union pay, union health benefits, union pensions and, perhaps of even greater importance, the political influence of the union movement.
EVEN MORE surprising is how Jack Hall (below, right), regarded by labor writer Dick Meister as “one of America's greatest labor leaders,” is unheralded these days in San Francisco.
   After returning in 1969 as international officer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the 56-year-old union militant was killed by a stroke in 1971.
     “When Jack Hall died,” Meister writes, “flags were flown at half-staff throughout Hawai’i; longshoremen closed the ports of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego for 24 hours, and thousands of other workers in Hawai’i and along the west coast of the United States and Canada also stopped work to show their respect.”
     Joy's documentary is particularly timely 37 years later, with the labor movement in retreat, the sugar cane plantations turning into condos and the tourist industry fighting the unions.
  The documentary is sponsored and funded by the Center for Labor Education and Research at the University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu, where Joy moved after a long career as a PBS producer. The center’s Chris Conybeare is executive producer.
   For the script, Joy teamed up with playwright Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl (her first novel, “Murder Casts a Shadow,” a thriller set in Honolulu in 1934, was just published by University of Hawaii Press). The writer has been Joy’s regular partner (with Craig Howes) in “Biography Hawai'i,” a series that began with a documentary in 2002 on Maiki Aiu Lake, the noted hula teacher.
THEIR latest project brought Joy and Victoria last year to San Francisco, where Jack Hall spent the last 18 months of his life. From the ILWU archives they documented a story that began for Hall in 1934.
   A young merchant seaman appalled by the poverty he saw in Pacific ports, he had been working as a stevedore in Frisco during the dock strike and general strike that followed.
   It broke the power of the shipping industry, defied the newspapers (except for the News) and clinched Frisco’s reputation as a union town. It also inspired Hall with the leadership and progressive values of charismatic Harry Bridges, head of the  International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
     Bridges sent his disciple as a Sailors Union organizer to help unionize workers in the sugar cane fields and the docks at Port Allen on the west side of Kaua’i.  When Hall stepped down the gangplank in 1935, the territory's economy (sugar, pineapples, shipping) and politics (mostly Republican) were largely ruled by the landowners unpopularly known as the Big Five. One strike led to another, and another, and Hall spent a quarter-century as the ILWU regional director. (Only his friends knew that his full name was John Wayne Hall. Both were heavy drinkers, but he was an activist, not an actor.)
AS JOY told us, “Jack's story is intertwined with the landmark events that helped change Hawai’i  from a feudalistic society to a modern democracy.”
   The Honolulu Advertiser, which 60 years ago called him a Communist, treated him with great respect in a February story that described Joy's film and added, “Hall’s contributions have been forgotten by all but the oldest of Hawai’i’s union veterans.”
     On the other hand, the six-month dock strike he led in 1949 is as memorable in Hawai’i as the waterfront strike 15 years earlier in Frisco. The ILWU and its regional manager were denounced by the shipping industry and sugar cane moguls as Communist-controlled.
    As the Red Scare spread from the mainland to the islands, Hall was one of 10 men convicted in 1953 under the Smith Act. It made it a crime to belong to an organization purported to “advocate” the violent overthrow of the government. They were free on appeal until the Supreme Court in 1957 tossed out the show-trial convictions and said “advocacy” was free speech.
     And then, improbably, Hall was no longer an outcast. No politician could ignore the ILWU’s endorsements. Appointed to various boards and commissions, Hall must have found amusing his new position at the table of the Establishment.
     Promoted as international officer by Bridges, Hall came back to San Francisco's ILWU headquarters, bought a house on Yerba Buena Avenue and spent time with his family (his daughter would marry politician-attorney John Burton, the veteran Sacramento legislator). 
IT WAS NO coincidence that Joy would need to visit San Francisco last year to scout out Hall's last years, but then what do we call the link with Kenny's assistant soccer coach? One of Joy's  main sources was  Eugene Vrana, ILWU librarian and associate director of education. He is a volunteer coach for Kenny's (championship) team at Lowell High School. It seems that everybody is connected.
    The library provided more than 1,500 photographs to Joy and  Victoria. (We did our part by taking them to dinner at The Stinking Rose, with its all-garlic menu.)
   Joy was quoted in the Advertiser as saying Hall was held in respect by his adversaries.
   “I think the honesty of Jack Hall rises to the top of things,” she said.
    No wonder he was soon erased from memory.
     “He breaks the unfortunate stereotype that labor leaders have,” Joy said. “He was well respected by the people who did not necessarily agree with him.”
    Sooner or later, Joy's documentary on Jack Hall will be shown on KQED in San Francisco. We'll try to let you know.     

Lynn Ludlow

The Tardy Times
August 2008
Website Builder