Student documentary follows first-time voters

By Kris Cabulong
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A 33-year-old UA media arts sophomore and father of four is filming a documentary that will follow two first-time voters on their way to election day.

The documentary will center around two non-partisan voters' reactions and insights into the presidential debates.

"I have no personal agenda," said IX (pronounced "Nine") Mendoza, adding that he wants his documentary "to be as raw as possible."

Mendoza said he hopes insight and honesty will be the appeal of his work.

"I think that the major flaw with journalism today is that it is entertainment, flash, spectacle and fashion shows," he said. "That is story-telling, not reporting."

Christafer Suddarth, an 18-year-old media arts sophomore, is one of the featured first-time voters in the documentary. Suddarth became involved in Mendoza's project after she responded to an e-mail requesting production help.

When Mendoza found out that Suddarth was a first-time voter, "they put me in front of the camera instead," Suddarth said.

Kenneth Hollingshead, 48, is the other subject of Mendoza's film. A Tucson native and housekeeper at the VA Hospital, Hollingshead said he is participating in the documentary because it was "just something to do."

Hollingshead pointed to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as his primary motivation for registering to vote for the first time in his life.

"Well, since they knocked down the twin towers, I think everybody ought to get out and vote," he said.

Suddarth has been excited about voting since before she was 18, she said. Suddarth said she is not leaning strongly toward either candidate and is eager to see how the third debate will play out.

Hollingshead has already begun to sway one way as a result of the previous two presidential debates. "I'm a little undecided now," Hollingshead said, "But I'm leaning towards Democrat."

Mendoza, who is producing his documentary out of his own pocket, said he wants to maintain journalistic professionalism.

"Personal bias should never be the forefront of reporting," he said. "I don't want anything that I may want to be 'seen or perceived' to be purposefully apparent in the piece."

To maintain that effect, Mendoza said he wants to stay away from a "Hollywood" or "glitzy" produced look. He works two-person crew if he's lucky, though he clamis is the support of his wife and four kids that keeps him going.

"My wife, Tina, is about as perfect and supportive as is heavenly possible," Mendoza said.

Mendoza said he is trying to arrange interviews with the presidential candidates after the debate in Tempe tomorrow, though yesterday he said it was unlikely.

"Bush's people said it won't happen 'due to security reasons,'" Mendoza said.

He said that Sen. John Kerry's camp, which had expressed interest, hadn't given him a positive "yes" or "no."

Mendoza hopes that if Kerry agrees to an interview, Bush will too.

Mendoza will be filming the next part of the documentary at 6 p.m. this Wednesday in Room 400 of the Cesar Chavez building, where Suddarth and Hollingshead will be watching the third presidential debate. Mendoza invites the campus community to watch the debate, after which a discussion will follow.