Nat Bates for Mayor tells the story of the outrageous 2014 mayoral race in Richmond, Calif. – home to the state’s second-largest refinery. Oil giant Chevron spent more than $3 million in the race to back 83-year-old African-American candidate Nat Bates.
Opening with footage of a 2012 fire at the Chevron oil refinery and a heated town hall where blue-collar employees clash with environmentalists, the film sets the groundwork for the election that shifted the balance of power in the city. Councilman Nat Bates makes a Faustian bargain with the corporate devil in hopes of keeping the waning working-class African-American community intact, as it deals with gentrification occurring throughout the Bay Area.
His biggest competition comes from the Richmond Progressive Alliance, an advocacy group that wants Chevron’s influence out of the city’s affairs. They rally behind Councilman Tom Butt, a man with a history of dismissing the concerns of low-income residents of the city.
The guerilla-style documentary follows the candidates on the trail, captures revealing personal moments, and records audacious city council meetings as they campaign to take control of the Bay Area’s overlooked oil town. Nothing is clear-cut as the film potently mixes issues of corporate influence, race, gentrification, homophobia, political self-determination, and humor – all told through the lives of bigger-than-life small-town characters.
> Available now on Amazon Prime (check out the five-star reviews)
Samples of critical review:
“It’s like watching a year-long boxing match with no referee.”
– East Bay Express
“The documentary shows us what happens when a multinational corporation gets involved. The microcosmic, local version of Citizens United at the national level, and a true harbinger of things to come. It serves as a document and an instruction manual as other towns and politicians find themselves taken over by corporate interests.”
– CineSource Magazine
“A fascinating history of the Richmond campaign and a timely reminder of the stakes involved in a key Left Coast battle against big money in politics that resonated nationally. The film captures the defining moment of a campaign old-fashioned in many ways but hyper-modern because of its indirect business financing.”
– Steve Early, author of Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City