Synopsis: The summer of 2020 finds Emily Siegrist in an unenviable position: running a
grassroots campaign for Wisconsin State Assembly, taking on a better-funded
incumbent in a race that will almost certainly come down to the wire, all in the
midst of a global pandemic. A nurse, veteran, and mother of two young kids, Emily
has put the district into political play with a campaign focused on healthcare,
education, and the environment. Yet as the campaign intensifies, so does a new
development: Emily, married twice before to men, is falling in love—this time, with
a woman who brings her new understanding of her identity. As Emily throws
herself into the limelight of a competitive political campaign, a newfound love
hovers beneath the surface, waiting to offer a path forward.
When I first set to work filming “Last Race,” I sought to create a short documentary which, through the eyes of one individual, would touch on the various forces shaping 2020 electoral politics in America. I wanted this project to reflect the election’s focus on the Upper Midwest, the realities of voter disenfranchisement and gerrymandering, the rise of a fierce progressive backlash to the presidency of Donald Trump, and the nature of campaigning in the midst of a global pandemic. Emily Siegrist’s down-ballot race for Wisconsin State Assembly in the 24th District—just north of Milwaukee—ties these various threads together: Emily is a nurse, veteran, and mother of two, running as a progressive in a conservative-leaning, gerrymandered district against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis.
Yet in the midst of filming Emily’s story, a new thread emerged; I found the focus shifting from the political to the personal. Last Race centers not only on the overarching political context but also the delicate navigation of newfound love and the beautiful moments of affirmation and truth that come through that process. Last Race ultimately captures snippets of this process of discovery, stitching them together into portrait of a woman discovering herself while seeking to bring her district the
representation it deserves.
John Haley is a documentary filmmaker and media professional whose character-driven stories center on the intersection of personal identity and societal structures. Guided by a minimalist approach to filmmaking, John aims to emphasize the reality of his characters’ experiences through handheld cinematography and carefully structured landscapes while working to situate stories within a broader social and political context. Thematically, his films grapple with contentious issues such as the death penalty and electoral politics through the lens of specific characters, contextualizing these social structures through distinct perspectives in pursuit of nuance and a more truthful, holistic understanding of reality. His award-winning films have screened at Wisconsin Film Festival, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, Tallgrass, Reeling, Sidewalk, CUFF.Docs, Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, Nevada City, and EarthxFilm, among others.