PUlse: All the Mayor’s Men

Barring any out-of-left-field scandals — a candidate’s trip to Bimini with a woman not his wife, for example — political campaigns tend not to hold a lot of intrigue 13 months before ballots are cast. But thanks to the Philadelphia Film Festival, one of the more compelling episodes of the city’s 2007 mayoral election may already be upon us.

After years of culling raw footage, Wynnefield filmmaker Tigre Hill is set to premiere his documentary The Shame of the City during the first week of the festival. The film, about the 2003 mayoral election between John Street and Republican Sam Katz, puts the city’s political culture in sharp relief by following the day-to-day slog of the campaign, especially the intense last few weeks of the contest, after the discovery of a listening device hidden in the Mayor’s office. Even more important, though, at least as far as the future of the city is concerned, the film offers up revealing scenes of several prominent, putative ’07 mayoral candidates — including Chaka Fattah, Jonathan Saidel and John Dougherty.

According to those who’ve seen Hill’s footage, none of the possible candidates come off as statesmen, exactly. Saidel, for example, is captured at a church rally comparing the feds’ investigation of the Street administration to rape, while Dougherty, head of Electrical Workers Local 98, can be seen pooh-poohing the vicious heckling of Katz by members of the union.

Hill has (probably wisely) refused to characterize how any political players fare in the work, especially since it’s still unclear what’s going to make the final cut. And while he didn’t set out to make anyone look bad, he says, some people are clearly concerned. Emissaries of several local pols have inquired about getting an advance peek at the movie — solicitations Hill has so far refused. “I’m just trying to tell things the way they were,” he says. “I’m not out to get anybody. I’m out to tell a story.”