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The Shame of a City

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1-Disc Version

Product Details

  • Actors: Sam Katz, John Street
  • Directors: Tigre Hill
  • Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Dacua Communications
  • DVD Release Date: April 10, 2007
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,962 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In 1904, author Lincoln Steffens wrote, Philadelphia is a city that is corrupt and contented. In 2003 filmmaker Tigre Hill chronicled the Philadelphia mayoral race between Democrat incumbent mayor, John Street and Republican challenger Sam Katz. Early polls showed Katz with a small lead. Hill had inside access to the Katz campaign and although rebuffed by the Street campaign, managed to get footage. Twenty-seven days before the election an FBI bug was found in the mayor s office. It looked like 1904 all over again-blatant corruption. The discovery of the bug at first seemed like a death knell to the Street campaign and a near certain victory for Katz. How did the mayor react to the bug? This powerful documentary shows how-drum up support by polarizing the electorate.


Tigre Hill's The Shame of a City is a civic Rorschach test. A cautionary tale of the streetfight that was the 2003 Philadelphia mayoral contest, this scrappy expose reveals how Smear-Room politics alienates voters across the political and color spectrum. Hill, who is African American, enjoyed unprecedented access to the camp of Republican challenger Sam Katz. But the director was denied the same by the team of Democratic incumbent John Street. As a consequence, we see Katz off the hustings and recognizably human, while Mayor Street mostly appears in campaign-warrior armor. Because the film's unapologetic sympathies are with Katz, it plays like the Mensch vs. the Machine. But because Katz bears a passing resemblance to Michael Bloomberg, New York's businessman mayor, and Street to 19th-century freedom fighter Frederick Douglass, their "casting" carries many levels of political and ethnic resonance. Yet no matter whether you sided with Katz or Street, abstained because it was a race between two liberals, or sat on the fence as the debate over the future of the city was preempted by a federal corruption probe, more than partisan politics was at stake. Less than a month before Election Day in 2003, Katz, who had lost to Street in a photo-finish 1999 race, was running even with Mayor Street in the polls. On the stump, Katz, a white fiscal conservative and social liberal proposing tax reform, criticized Street, a black fiscal conservative and social liberal, for such practices as awarding city contracts to campaign contributors. Then, police discovered an electronic listening device in the mayor's office. Street partisans charged the Katz campaign with planting it. When the FBI confirmed it had authorized the bug to probe corruption in City Hall, Katz partisans accused Team Street of malfeasance. From there, acrimony escalated and the campaign devolved. Street supporters spun their candidate as a victim of a Republican, racist witch hunt organized by the feds. Katz suppor --Carrie Rickey, Film Critic, Philadelphia Inquirer

Politics in 'Shame,' no shame in politics "POLITICS - the art of the possible." - Che, in "Evita" "The Shame of a City" might wind up on HBO, but the documentary is sure to be studied in political-campaign war rooms for years to come. Director Tigre Hill's 2 ½-years-in-the-making political tragi-comedy, which premieres tomorrow at the Philadelphia Film Festival, dissects how John Street's collapsing campaign was resuscitated by a scrum of prevaricating political artful dodgers. "Shame" begins in the closing weeks of the 2003 mayor's race with Sam Katz enjoying Mummers music and a slim lead over incumbent John Street. There are no startling, "say wha'?" revelations in the documentary, but "Shame" is organized into an easy-to-grasp and entertaining 90 minutes that Joe and Joan Citizen can easily digest. News of a bug found in the mayor's office broke Oct. 7 - a political car bomb the effects of which almost all the press and political pros, including Team Katz, read wrong. When it turned out to be a Department of Justice investigation into corruption in the mayor's office, it looked like a catastrophe for Street. Katz relaxed, but Democrats were cattle-prodded into action. Katz gave filmmaker Hill total access to his campaign, in front of and behind the scenes. Hill had asked the same of Street - hoping to get a fully rounded picture of a bruising campaign - but he was turned down. So while Hill didn't have access to Democrat strategy, it was obvious: Employ the art of the possible - and in Philadelphia that meant playing the race card and creating a GOP bogeyman. That double-edged sword is what Hill, himself an African-American, means by "the shame" of this city. While Katz was picking out colors to paint the mayor's office, the Democrats painted the probe as an attack on a black, Democratic mayor by a (very) White House, despised in Philly, where Dems outnumber Republicans 4-1. The Dem spin machine - using public pronouncements, political signs, campaign --Stu Bykofsky, Columnist, Philadelphia Daily News

SNEAK PEEK AT A TRUE PHILLY HORROR FILM I'VE NEVER appreciated, or understood, the print movie reviews that leave you wondering whether a picture is any good. Movie critics seem hell-bent on leaving readers guessing whether a flick is worth their time. It's so pervasive it must be deliberate, regardless of the fact that their job is to give folks a heads-up. Well, today I get to share some thoughts about a movie that has yet to be released, and I promise to leave no such mystery. Tigre Hill is finally set to release "Shame of a City." This movie about Philadelphia's 2003 mayoral race has been talked about for so long that many were questioning whether he'd ever finish the job. Well, he has, and it was worth the wait. "Shame of a City" is political dynamite. Thumbs up. Four stars. Must-see. Yada, yada, yada. Hill is a 38-year-old director who had Sam Katz's cooperation in following his campaign, although he could never get John Street's people to return his calls. His solution? He enlisted the assistance of savvy cinematographer Dianne Thompson, who obtained the requisite footage of Mayor Street. Both are African-American, which makes them well-suited to collaborate on a story of how race was used to benefit the city's black mayor. Hill lays bare the scam that enabled John Street's re-election. In the hindsight that comes from the many convictions that have since occurred, the proposition that the mayor's office was bugged as part of a Hoover-Nixon-Aschcroft-Bush effort to elect a Republican looks as absurd as its perpetrators had to have known when they floated it. The footage from the corridors of power, the campaign trail, and even the pulpit, allows Hill to capture the con in mid-sentence. The notion of conspiracy was a total hoax, perhaps the greatest perpetrated in the midst of a political campaign in this city, which says a lot. And it all unfolds in "Shame" in a way that no newspaper coverage or 20-second TV news report could ever have done while the ev --Michael Smerconish, Host, WPHT-AM

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Omara Jr. on August 30, 2007
Outstanding documentary! Every citizen of Philadelphia should own a copy. Very effectively depicts John Street and fellow Democrats as blatent racists and liars, as well as local electrician honcho and his bullying goons as the unofficial leader of organized crime in the city. Brilliant!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Harold Wentz on December 30, 2007
This is truly a documentary that feels like it is actually a movie!!!! It really shows how treacherous big city politics can be and the filmmaker had incredible access to the candidates!!!!! I saw the doc "Street Fight" but in my opinion this is far better. It is a cautionary tale of politicians manipulating the process and how the public buys it just like a herd of sheep!! See this film!! It is a non-fictional work of art!!!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By rolly finger on November 15, 2011
This film is amazing. I have heard about for years and finally bit the bullet and bought it. Expensive yes. worth it? Yes.
This film should have received a wider distribution. the access the filmmaker has is amazing and Philadelphia must be a cesspool like Chicago.
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