Written by Fumo Verde
Civil disobedience and racial profiling are just two subjects touched upon by writer-director Gabriel Range in this contemporary and controversial docu-drama Death of a President. Range and co-writer Simon Finch weave a tale of what the world has become since the attack of 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, showing the rising tide of discontent in the American public towards a President and his policies–that President being George W. Bush. Using archive news footage and computer-enhanced imaging, Range and his crew blend the lines of what is real and what is not, producing a film with an eerie tone of reality.
It is a fictional story about the assassination of President George W. Bush on October 17, 2007 and what happens in the aftermath. Dick Cheney becomes President and pushes his own agenda, using the al-Queda connection and the war on terror to form a new Patriot Act, which gives the police, FBI, and other similar agencies the go-ahead to create a semi-police state. A young Muslim is arrested for the crime and after he is already convicted and sentenced by a jury, definitely not of his peers, the truth of the actual shooter if revealed. Each character that pops up to tell their part of the story gives us a viewpoint about this situation, and these viewpoints are as diverse as the country itself.
Filmed as if it were a documentary for A&E or the History Channel, Death of a President‘s small cast of actors did a fantastic job of portraying people who were close to the President. Like most documentaries that you see on television, interviews from those who were there and from those involved take us along for the ride. With creative computer effects and amazing editing, Range brings to life something that looks as if it happened yesterday. The footage of real demonstrations Range filmed lent to the reality of the production shots.
For example, in an interview on the extras section of the movie, Thumim stated that he had filmed a demonstration in Chicago on a certain street right at dusk. Upon meeting some of the demonstrators and mingling with them, he and Range invited them to be extras for a following shoot sometime later. That shoot took place on the same street at the same time where the real demonstration happened weeks before. The mixing of the demonstration that the production team actually filmed and the shoot that they did later added a facade of truth that brought out a gritty texture to the film and gave credence to its “realism”.
The controversy arose do to the fact that they were using a sitting President as the “star” of the show. Both Republican and Democratic politicians denounced the film as outrageous and disgusting. For that alone, I consider this a movie that I will always hold dear. Not because it deals with the shooting of a President or the anger that most of the country has towards Bush, I just like anything that pisses off the Republicans and Democrats.
Generally I thought this was a well-made film, but the story, be it the assassination of Bush or any other President, although intriguing, left me wondering what all the fuss was about in the first place. It wasn’t like Bush died and the whole world rejoiced until they figured out that Cheney was now in charge. The thing I like best about documentaries is the fact that you learn something when it’s all over; with Death of a President I didn’t feel that happened.
Yes, I understand why people are mad at the U.S. and why the world along with a good part of our own country can’t stand Bush or his administration, but I knew that five years ago. Cheney becoming President should be a reality check for those screaming “impeachment;” that’s a scary thought I would not like to have creep into my mind, but that’s what would happen if impeachment or assassination–gods forbid–happened. I understand the reasons why Range and Finch brought this idea about and I do agree with them, yet I still feel like there was something missing in all this.
All in all I like the movie, the acting was good, the plot was interesting and it didn’t run too long. If you can rent it for a dollar, and you have the extra buck then go for it. The CGI alone is worth seeing.