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Can You Hear Us Now?

In 2011, the state of Wisconsin gained international attention when a hundred thousand protesters took over the state capital to oppose union-busting legislation. The legislation passed and, since then, Wisconsin has been a proving ground for 'pro-business' legislation that has changed both the electoral and the physical landscape of the state.

CAN YOU HEAR US NOW? looks at the personal impact of these changes and how Wisconsin has become a model — or a cautionary tale — of shifting policies and unaccountable government.

Through intimate, handheld verite cinematography and on-the-fly interviews, the film takes us into the lives of two Wisconsinites who have translated their own challenging circumstances into political action: Jenni Estrada, a working-class mother raising five children on her own since her husband was deported to Mexico seven years ago; and Rebecca Clarke, a laid-off environmental educator in a sharply gerrymandered district. Both are running for State Assembly seats they know they can't win.

Running in parallel with their stories is a series of anti-democratic measures that come to light through an ensemble of citizen activists. Voting activist Molly McGrath takes us to the country's most incarcerated district, in the city of Milwaukee, where we meet one person after another who explain why they can't get the ID's required to vote under Wisconsin's restrictive voter ID laws. Sachin Chheda and Bill Whitford, who argue that Wisconsin's legislative maps are the most gerrymandered in the country, show us the insurmountable hurdles that Democratic State Assembly candidates face. Retired teacher Sheila Plotkin, through hundreds of open records requests, tallies up communications from constituents that expose an alarming disconnect between their views and their representatives' voting records.

The film builds from personal stories of disenfranchisement to an alarming tale of democracy in peril, culminating in the election of Democratic candidates to all state-wide offices and a dramatic 'lame duck' legislative session in which Republicans strip a broad range of powers from those offices.

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