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TIFF: Who Shot Bush? ("Death of a President" Review)
rogerebert.com ^ | 9-12 | Jim Emerson

Posted on 09/14/2006 6:42:11 PM PDT by pcottraux

TIFF: Who shot Bush?

by Jim Emerson Editor, RogerEbert.com / September 12, 2006

Cast & Credits More coverage of the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival can be found at RogerEbert.com editor Jim Emerson's associated blog, Scanners.

TORONTO -- "Death of a President," the documentary-style speculative fiction about the assassination of the 43rd President of the United States, is seamless, intelligent and maybe even necessary to an understanding of George W. Bush's role in the world today, and his place in the wider scope of history. Especially when public awareness of the facts about his administration lags so far behind what has already been documented.

Written and directed by Gabriel Range, this very convincingly staged television "documentary" falls into a tradition of fictionalized British films (going back to Peter Watkins' famous "The War Game" and "Punishment Park" in the early 1960s) that use nonfiction techniques to explore contemporary social and political issues. Range himself made a film in 2003 called "The Day Britain Stopped," about what might happen if public transportation came to a standstill. Before that, he made "The Menendez Murders" (2002), described as another form of docu-drama.

The scenario is a familiar one: What would happen if a much-hated world leader was killed in office? Since the failed assassination attempts on Adolph Hitler, fictions imagining how things might have changed with the elimination of one powerful figure have fascinated historians and the public. How could they not?

We all know that four U.S. presidents have been assassinated, and that every president faces that threat every day. Gerald Ford, one of our most benign chief executives, survived two murder attempts in the month of September 1975 alone -- and he was never as divisive and generally reviled as Bush Jr., whose methods and ideology have been vilified as Hitlerian in real-life speeches and demonstrations that we've all seen already. (I'm speaking only about the real-life hatred the man has evoked worldwide, not the aptness of the Nazi comparison or whether such virulence is justified by his words and actions in office.)

"Death of a President" sticks to the assassination and the search for the killer, without exploring the domestic or global political repercussions of an official Cheney administration -- or even whether President Cheney runs for re-election. It covers events from October, 2007, to about a year later. What the film does is to take the real events that have characterized the Bush administration -- particularly its most infamous political modus operandi of marshaling selected and manufactured "facts" to fit a preordained conclusion -- and transpose them from the past into the future. When a forensics expert talks about the evidence against a suspect as being supportive but, in itself, inconclusive (nine points of comparison on a single fingerprint), and says he was told repeatedly to "look again" to strengthen a weak case, it's exactly like the CIA analysts who were interviewed in several "Frontline" documentaries talking about the phony case the administration made for the invasion of Iraq.

There is talk of the hundreds of people -- including American citizens -- who suddenly "vanished" from the US after 9/11, rounded up and detained indefinitely in shadow prisons abroad. Something similar happens after the assassination. "Patriot Act III" is passed in the immediate aftermath of Bush's death, giving the FBI and Homeland Security more unspecified surveillance and arrest "powers" -- when what's really needed is stricter adherence to existing procedures and (better analysis of existing intelligence).

The Bush assassination, which takes place outside the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Chicago, is politically exploited, just like 9/11, within hours. President Cheney looks for any excuse to go after Syria. A likely suspect is identified in an article on "page 3 or 4" of the Chicago Sun-Times, but somehow that story never catches the public's attention and is overlooked by officials more interested in job security and appearances. Again, just like the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Everyone seems to agree that the anti-Bush demonstrations in Chicago that day were exceptionally angry. A top Chicago police official says he may disagree with the demonstrators, but that they have the right to protest. But, he claims, the key language in the First Amendment says such expressions must be "peaceful and law-abiding." There is no such language in the First Amendment, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised to find that millions of Americans think there is. On the other hand, as a Secret Service agent explains, his job is to protect the president, and when demonstrators break police lines, actually stop the motorcade and come into contact with the presidential vehicle, that is no longer free speech but a direct security threat. I wouldn't contest that at all.

Most of all, "Death of a President" is electrifying drama, and compellingly realistic. The actors chosen for interview segments (including the mom from "Freaks & Geeks" as a presidential speechwriter) are unerringly authentic as real people, speaking spontaneously before a documentary lens -- even when it's clear they've rehearsed in their heads what they're going to say, and may even have told these same stories any number of times before. (An arrogant interrogator is particularly convincing in telling self-aggrandizing anecdotes about his assessment and treatment of a suspect.)

There's no reason to be threatened by this film, any more than there was to be by "United 93" or "World Trade Center." It's responsible and observant about the world we live in -- and it's certainly not going to give anybody any ideas they haven't had already. In its use of real or fictionalized narratives to examine recent political events -- especially the aftermath of 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq -- "Death of a President" isn't all that different from innumerable other films in this year's festival, from "The Host" to "Pan's Labyrinth" to "Rescue Dawn."

"Death of a President" has been in the Toronto festival guides as "D.O.A.P." (or "dope"), as if the actual title of the film was too inflammatory for publication (perhaps in the way the comedy "The Pope Must Die" was retitled in America as "The Pope Must Diet"). The "D.O.A.P." designation does not appear on the movie itself. At the press/industry screening Tuesday morning, however, the acronym was conjured by an anti-Bush protest sign in the film that got a good laugh from the international audience: "Solid as a Rock. Only Dumber."

P.S. Throughout the festival, men in short-sleeved white shirts have stood in the aisles during press screenings shooting infrared video of the crowd. During the movie, mind you. Ostensibly, this is just a distracting and intrusive anti-piracy measure -- the price you pay for, well, watching a movie. I guess the idea is that if the tapes show any members of the audience photographing what's on the screen, they can be tracked down and prosecuted. No word about those who just pick their noses or itch their butts, but I'm sure a compilation of that footage will eventually appear somewhere -- perhaps on the Internet. I can't tell you, though, how disconcerting it was to see these guys filming us as we watched "Death of a President" and the film talked about the new surveillance procedures allowed under "Patriot Act III." If I disappear trying to legally cross back into the U.S. (I'm a citizen), please look for me.

There's another documentary in the festival, JT Petty's "S&MAN," about a creepy "underground" horror filmmaker who shoots a series of stalker movies, following women on the street and to their jobs and then "killing" them. He makes his living selling these on DVD, and their appeal is based in the fact that they appear to be real voyeuristic material. As far as I'm concerned, the creeps with the cameras at TIFF may as well be doing the same thing.


TOPICS: TV/Movies
KEYWORDS: assasination; bush; emerson

1 posted on 09/14/2006 6:42:12 PM PDT by pcottraux
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To: pcottraux
One thing I want to know is, while this film was being filmed in Chicago, did the police and the mayors office assist them in making the film???

If so were they aware of the content of the film?

2 posted on 09/14/2006 6:44:22 PM PDT by mware (Americans in armchairs doing the job of the media.)
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To: pcottraux

It was meant to be a liberal fantasy. I'm sure they have this dream every night...


3 posted on 09/14/2006 6:46:15 PM PDT by Brilliant
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To: pcottraux

It would seem the writer of this crap has enough hatred built up for President Bush, he's one who could possibly go off the deep end and try it.


4 posted on 09/14/2006 6:47:42 PM PDT by digger48
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To: pcottraux

What crap.


5 posted on 09/14/2006 6:47:50 PM PDT by flynmudd (Proud Navy Mom to OSSR Richard T. Blalock-USS Ramage)
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To: pcottraux

"Especially when public awareness of the facts about his administration lags so far behind what has already been documented."

Well now! "Especially when the press makes stuff up about what Bush said, like "The war in Iraq will be easy and won't take long", then criticizes the president for something he did not say"...is more like the truth.

Mission Accomplished!


6 posted on 09/14/2006 6:48:48 PM PDT by DBrow
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To: Brilliant

Yeah, but they try to hide it behind phrases like "great art," "significant statements," and "thought-provoking drama."


7 posted on 09/14/2006 6:49:04 PM PDT by pcottraux (It's pronounced "P. Coe-troe.")
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To: mware

Gee I can hardly wait for the various Leftist losers response to the follow up movie. "Who kidnapped and beheaded Bill Clinton"? /S


8 posted on 09/14/2006 6:49:51 PM PDT by MNJohnnie (The Democrat Party. For those who value slogans over solutions.)
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To: Brilliant

"It was meant to be a liberal fantasy."

Bingo! It is a lib fantasy, like West Wing was how the Clinton years just should have gone.

A fantasy, I think, that is pornographic and harmful.


9 posted on 09/14/2006 6:51:04 PM PDT by DBrow
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To: digger48

The writer of this article is Jim Emerson, who is the editor of Roger Ebert's web site and sort of a fill-in in the midst of Ebert's absense due to his surgery.

Emerson is an amateurish writer who spouts off liberal talking points and tries to disguise it with intellectual-sounding elitism, then pretends he's a great thinker.


10 posted on 09/14/2006 6:52:16 PM PDT by pcottraux (It's pronounced "P. Coe-troe.")
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To: pcottraux

Fiction built upon more fiction. Where's the outhouse alert?


11 posted on 09/14/2006 6:52:33 PM PDT by auboy
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To: Brilliant
It was meant to be a liberal fantasy. I'm sure they have this dream every night...

Not possible.....they are already dreaming of a gun free America. ;^)

12 posted on 09/14/2006 6:52:34 PM PDT by tioga
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To: pcottraux

I don't know where to start. Is there not one prominent liberal who will speak out against this?


13 posted on 09/14/2006 6:54:39 PM PDT by TankerKC (Step Back! Doors Closing.)
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To: MNJohnnie
I am serious Johnnie, did city, state or federal monies go into assisting them in making this film???
14 posted on 09/14/2006 6:56:09 PM PDT by mware (Americans in armchairs doing the job of the media.)
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To: pcottraux
Especially when public awareness of the facts about his administration lags so far behind what has already been documented.

Another go at this one:

When the press suggests that Bush has stated a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, then spends hours debunking the link, it is hard for the American public to know what Bush is actually doing.

15 posted on 09/14/2006 6:56:49 PM PDT by DBrow
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To: TankerKC

Kevin Costner has denounced the movie but as far as Iknow he's the only Hollywood liberal to do so.


16 posted on 09/14/2006 6:58:11 PM PDT by cripplecreek (If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?)
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To: mware; AliVeritas
I am serious Johnnie, did city, state or federal monies go into assisting them in making this film???

A good question. Ali know the answer?

17 posted on 09/14/2006 6:58:24 PM PDT by MNJohnnie (The Democrat Party. For those who value slogans over solutions.)
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To: pcottraux
>>"great art">>>>>

Yes, exactly like the old masters painted nude women but they gave them high minded names like liberty hope and charity. They would never have been tolerated if they had been sexual in nature.

But hey, they were nekkid women anyway and anyone could look at them and not feel embarrassed or guilty.
18 posted on 09/14/2006 7:02:40 PM PDT by Ditter
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To: MNJohnnie
I believe it is a practice in some cities for film companies to receive assistance by the city while making the film.

Help in traffic and crowd control.

Another question, did any real police officers appear in the film???

19 posted on 09/14/2006 7:03:42 PM PDT by mware (Americans in armchairs doing the job of the media.)
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To: mware
Whether or not they knew will be hard to find out.

But there is a paper trail- the location manager for the film must have pulled permits and paperwork for the public-area filming, and there are numerous contracts on record documenting police work and other amenities.

How to get these documents I am not sure. Maybe start with IMDB and find out who the location manager is, or

http://egov.cityofchicago.org/city/webportal/portalEntityHomeAction.do?entityName=Film+Office&entityNameEnumValue=15

has tons of stuff about rates, permits, and so forth. DOAP is not listed, nor are any other 2006 films.
20 posted on 09/14/2006 7:04:08 PM PDT by DBrow
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To: pcottraux
The writer of this review is a despicably smug asshole. I'm so irritated right now...
21 posted on 09/14/2006 7:07:44 PM PDT by AnnaZ (I think so, Brain, but if we give peas a chance, won't the lima beans feel left out?)
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To: DBrow
When the press suggests that Bush has stated a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, then spends hours debunking the link, it is hard for the American public to know what Bush is actually doing.

Actually that's a very good point. It wouldn't be the first time the media lied and attributed it to the President. The Jessica Lynch rescue is a prime example. The media went nuts with all the stories of wild shootouts and a heroic rescue. Then when questions started coming up the media immediately blamed CENTCOM. MSNBC finally did admit that they could find no evidence that CENTCOM had said the things.
22 posted on 09/14/2006 7:08:28 PM PDT by cripplecreek (If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?)
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To: Brilliant

If the liberals hated terrorists even half as much as the President of the United States, the military would be extremely grateful IMO.

If the libs would generate this energy towards terror, wouldn't that be nice.


23 posted on 09/14/2006 7:11:20 PM PDT by A CA Guy (God Bless America, God bless and keep safe our fighting men and women.)
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To: cripplecreek

Another is the deliberate misinterpretation of "Mission Accomplished"- out of context and distorted, yet constantly brought up, usually in the context of US casualties.


24 posted on 09/14/2006 7:11:37 PM PDT by DBrow
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To: AnnaZ

See post 10.


25 posted on 09/14/2006 7:20:11 PM PDT by pcottraux (It's pronounced "P. Coe-troe.")
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To: mware

the White House helped! The producer claimed he was a journalist working for Channel 4 Great Britain.


26 posted on 09/14/2006 7:25:08 PM PDT by gusopol3
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To: gusopol3

They helped under false pretenses.


27 posted on 09/14/2006 7:27:37 PM PDT by mware (Americans in armchairs doing the job of the media.)
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To: mware

so I understand.


28 posted on 09/14/2006 7:30:11 PM PDT by gusopol3
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To: pcottraux
See post 10.

IOW, an asshole.

(LOL)

29 posted on 09/14/2006 7:33:00 PM PDT by AnnaZ (I think so, Brain, but if we give peas a chance, won't the lima beans feel left out?)
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To: AnnaZ

Exactly.

I've posted a few of his so-called writings on FR before. I'd post some links but I'm pretty sure you're mad enough as it is.


30 posted on 09/14/2006 7:34:05 PM PDT by pcottraux (It's pronounced "P. Coe-troe.")
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To: pcottraux
I thank you for your consideration.

xo

31 posted on 09/14/2006 7:41:44 PM PDT by AnnaZ (I think so, Brain, but if we give peas a chance, won't the lima beans feel left out?)
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To: pcottraux

Do they ever figure out who the Amish guy that did it was?


32 posted on 09/14/2006 7:53:24 PM PDT by usmcobra (I sing Karaoke the way it was meant to be sung, drunk, badly and in Japanese, that why I don't sing.)
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To: usmcobra

Lol, what did he use, a musket?


33 posted on 09/14/2006 8:05:23 PM PDT by pcottraux (It's pronounced "P. Coe-troe.")
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To: pcottraux
If I remember correctly, anytime anyone threatens to do harm, or death to the POTUS, doesn't the Secret Service move into action and arrest those people?

So if this stupid movie is being shown; made; ie: in Chicago or anywhere else in the U.S. shouldn't those people be arrested for threating to do bodily harm and/or death to the POTUS?
34 posted on 09/14/2006 8:06:31 PM PDT by HarleyLady27 (My ? to libs: "Do they ever shut up on your planet?" "Grow your own DOPE: Plant a LIB!")
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To: pcottraux
What would happen if a much-hated world leader was killed in office?

My interest in this review came to a screeching halt at that point.

35 posted on 09/14/2006 8:09:53 PM PDT by kanawa
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To: HarleyLady27

Well, I think the viewpoint is that this movie isn't really calling for the death of the president so much as it is portraying what it would be like if he were killed.

Still, that's getting way too close to the line, if not going over it.


36 posted on 09/14/2006 8:22:08 PM PDT by pcottraux (It's pronounced "P. Coe-troe.")
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To: pcottraux

I thought of that, but also thought to that there would be some crack pot out there that is wanting to make a name for him/herself and try to do just that....

Columbine comes to my mind, especially in the fact that what happened in Canada the other day....

I was living in Colorado at the time and my neighbor's daughter was killed there, very sad and scary....


37 posted on 09/14/2006 8:43:09 PM PDT by HarleyLady27 (My ? to libs: "Do they ever shut up on your planet?" "Grow your own DOPE: Plant a LIB!")
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To: HarleyLady27

Yeah, I don't know if you remember, but shortly after the Columbine massacre, there was another school shooting at Heritage High School in Georgia. That school was only about 10 minutes from my school.


38 posted on 09/14/2006 8:58:34 PM PDT by pcottraux (It's pronounced "P. Coe-troe.")
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To: pcottraux
I've met Roger Ebert, nice man.

But he is remiss, on a very important count. Most all these "what if's" concerning people in high positions -- are done AFTER the person is out of office; NOT during, and while the icky liberal democrats are demanding his impeachment; and others want him dead.

Intellectualism can be so ... so... stupid.

Roger had his chance here to show that while he can analyze films well, he misses the obvious.

39 posted on 09/15/2006 3:33:09 AM PDT by Alia
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To: Alia

Yeah, but Ebert himself didn't write this. This was penned by the editor of his website, Jim Emerson, who is filling in for him during his absence.


40 posted on 09/15/2006 10:22:57 AM PDT by pcottraux (It's pronounced "P. Coe-troe.")
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To: pcottraux

I should have paid better attention. I do know that Mr. Ebert is ailing. The reason I didn't is because, once upon a time, Mr. Ebert's reviews were superior, IMHO, to what they are now. He judges film on pure "film" matters; but sans context; now. I've observed him, over the years, move to the more PC-"gotta keep my job" perspective. So, I didn't even to think to wonder whether or not this had been written by him. It just sounded in resonance with his newer "self" in reviewing films. I hope he heals.


41 posted on 09/15/2006 3:14:16 PM PDT by Alia
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