Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Monday, January 03, 2005

Watched Lyons and Conason's The Hunting of the President this weekend - it's recently come out on DVD. It was OK, but it really gave me a good reminder of how hard it is to make a really good documentary. Stylistically, Hunting wasn't bad, but there were a lot of problems. They used a LOT of stock footage that had nothing to do with the subject matter, except for symbolism - when they'd be talking about graft and corruption they'd show some clip of an old mob movie, that sort of thing. It was an interesting idea, but it was used too much and it was distracting.

There also wasn't a good sense of proportion - the film moved at about the same pace through all the stages of the story without really pausing on the really dramatic parts. We weren't given enough time, for example, to really digest the enormity of what was done to Susan McDougal, while there was a lot of wasted space, like the recounting of the experiences of some Kiwi writer living on a right-wing nutjob's houseboat. I was waiting for there to be some sort of revelation about something that happened on the houseboat, but in the end there wasn't.

All in all, it was fine and much better and more interesting than most political documentaries, but it made me appreciate Michael Moore, whose films are extremely well put together and incredibly engaging from start to finish.

The big thing I think was missed was the conclusion, in which all these Democrats who got pissed on during Whitewater were saying things like "Is this the kind of society we want to have where this big slime machine can almost destroy an elected president?" Now, I'm somthing of an iconoclast, and I admit I have no particular love for Clinton, but can't we think of a more frightening possibility than that the U.S. president, who I think we can all agree can take care of himself, might be hamstrung by an unscrupulous far-right media machine.

Like, I don't know, what if that same media machine were somehow employed in the service of power? What if instead of ginning up fake scandals, the machine were engaged for the purpose of shouting down and covering up real scandals? What if one party took over all three branches of U.S. Government and used this media machine to stamp out dissent and entrench their power by crippling the discourse through constant propaganda and endless lying?

I mean, it's pretty far fetched, but filmmakers are supposed to be creative guys.


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