A scene from 11/8/16 (The Orchard)

An hour into 11/08/16, an artist, fearing that angry and resentful voters will propel Donald Trump toward the presidency, is consoled by her optimistic father over the phone. “Democracy” he says, “with all its warts, has always been a pull-push situation.” This quote serves as the documentary’s mission statement.

Set over the course of the 2016 Election Day and made in collaboration with 18 different directors, the film attempts to paint an unbiased, wart-filled portrait of every political shade. Some of these are predictable, such as the college-aged woman canvassing for Hillary Clinton. Others are more surprising, like the Massachusetts Trump supporter who feels surrounded by liberals. The film interviews many who are intriguing, though not for their political views but because they lead interesting lives. There is an exonerated man in Alabama voting for the first time in 30 years, a homeless couple in Hawaii unaware of any news from the campaigns, and a handful of others. The rest is rounded out with bland and predictable NPR and Los Angeles Times journalists, one avid Evan McMullin supporter, and a couple red state Trump supporters.

In the end, by uncovering every wart, 11/08/16 feels less like an accurate portrait of the day and more like a cluttered mess of thinly-connected talking heads. It’s obvious from the beginning that each interview is conducted by a different director, so the stylistic changes between vignettes can often be jarring and noticeable. Long, clichéd establishing shots of towns, voting lines, and mountains are added between interviews in a clumsy, heavy-handed manner. This lack of connective tissue may have been unavoidable, given the subject’s nature, but it exposes the film’s bigger issue: the sheer amount of interviews.

During the course of the film, there are some people who are revisited many times, and others who are only seen twice. There does not seem to be any particular reason why. Often, those who are the most notable (the McMullin supporter or the nihilistic Wardinski Boots, who wins two percent of the votes for Vermont’s lieutenant governor) recede into the background. No matter how fascinating the interviewees are, if the film does not revisit them frequently, their stories are quickly forgotten, even before the film is over. In fact, those who are most seen rarely say anything unique that has not already been addressed by major news outlets since Trump became president. This makes it feels as if 11/08/16 has nothing new to offer to the dialogue.

There are a handful of times when the camera catches something fascinating, if only through pure luck.  In one instance, the Los Angeles Times cartoonist shows a finished draft of Clinton breaking through a glass ceiling, and he says he doubts he will need to draft a sketch for a Trump victory. There is another moment when a politically active Dreamer realizes that votes are turning in Trump’s favor, and tears form in his eyes. These scenes are when the movie is at its most engaging, but they are far too infrequent.

The conclusion is filled with tears and anger, and this is when the documentary’s bias shines through. The last 30 minutes boils down the handful of Trump supporters to only two interviews. More time is spent capturing the reactions of journalists, mixed with small snippets of crying Clinton supports. For a film whose purported goal was to document the full political spectrum of the election, this ending is a misstep. It wants its audience to relive the emotions they felt on Election Day, whatever they may have been. If those emotions included sadness and frustration, they will be found here in large numbers.

Directed by Duane Andersen, Don Argott, Yung Chang, Garth Donovan, Petra Epperlein, Vikram Gandhi, Raul Gasteazoro, J. Gonçalves, Andrew Grace, Alma Har’el, Sheena M. Joyce, Daniel Junge, Alison Klayman, Ciara Lacy, Martha Shane, Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Bassam Tariq, and Michael Tucker
Released by the Orchard
English, Spanish, Panjabi, and Urdu with English subtitles
USA. 104 min. Not rated