Saturday, April 07, 2007

Death of a President: Grade C


Death of a President (2006)

Co-writer, director: Gabriel Range

George W. Bush is assassinated by a sharpshooter while traveling in Chicago (on October 19, 2007). This fake documentary tells the story in retrospect as if it were a “Frontline” news analysis or a segment on “60 Minutes”. It uses all the clich├ęs of those shows, such as news footage interspersed with interviews of key players like FBI investigators and family members of suspects. Some of the news clips are real and used to good effect. For example, eulogies delivered at former president Gerald Ford’s funeral are edited to be appropriate for a Bush funeral. Some news clips are realistically staged. There are fake video security camera tapes and fake interviews using the standard shallow depth of field portrait shot of highlighted, high-contrast people recalling “how it was.” It is a realistic-looking documentary but it overlooks the fundamental fact that such documentaries are generally boring as dirt. They actually don’t give much information (like exactly how the security failed, the background and motivation of the shooter, the forensic trail, the political consequences, etc.), but rely on dramatic music and a deep-voiced announcer to imply gravity, and use irrelevancies to pad out 5 minutes of whodunit suspense to 90. The result is air salad. Creating a good simulation of something so empty is not much of an achievement. There is also a gratuitous left-wing criticism of Bush foreign policy and the Patriot Act. A fake counterfactual documentary is a clever idea but the novelty wears off quickly. The shock value of imagining the assassination of George W. Bush dissipates even more quickly.

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