Thursday, January 18, 2007

The year that sucked review: #9

So after a brief list-related hiatus, I'm back with #9. Provided that #10 was found somewhat entertaining, it's time to move on so this doesn't take 6 months and I stop caring.

Over the last year, I found myself watching more documentaries than ever before. I don't know what exactly inspired this trend; although I've had a craving to discover more, at least topographically and in some ways culturally, the majority of docs I watched were political. I suppose this grew from my general observations about the states and the criticisms and propaganda. In this binge of observations, watching reality perceived differently or through various opinions really sort of opening my eyes.

And then, around September or so, I watched Death of a President. I remember becoming interested when I heard that all these Republicans were rallying (in their bullshit way) against it and how a lot of theatres were refusing to screen it. I'm a strong advocate against censorship, so naturally I immediately found a way to watch this nugget.

Aesthetically speaking, there's nothing particularly impressive about it (in terms of pure technicality). The shots are fairly plain, straightforward, very-documentary feeling. That's good, of course. What DID impress me was how they took a fictional event and made it feel real, made it actually seem like a truth. In many ways I found Death of a President similar to Brazilian film Bus 174, which was actually true. The style of interviews is fantastic, and the actors all do a good job suspending disbelief.

I was most impressed with the "security official" who said he watched eyes instead of hands, because that felt exactly what an elite official would say, especially one that was involved in a situation like the one the film tackles.

The context also fits; the protest shots and the "security camera" views are a nice touch; I really felt like they were capitalizing on the current anxiety around viewership in America, how everything is watched. It did take a few liberties from the conventional documentary, which was the fact that it was staged, so they could put cameras where needed and draw the action in front of them, but they still did it in a way that kept the viewer outside the riot but still intimately involved with the situation. The shots weren't disorienting or annoying either, which was a nice touch; in short, it was a very clean film.

Now usually a film like this would hit my top 10, but last year was sort of a stray from the norm for me, heavily influenced by my disappointment in the regular genres. But even still, Death of a President is a good film that doesn't disappoint the audience, and feels very real. It achieves what it set out to do, which many films fail at. I recommend this for those that like documentaries or have ever dreamed of murdering the president....


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