Controversial DoaP exploits fears rather than investigates them

Death Of A President

on October 27, 2006 by Kevin Courrier
When Death of a President, a speculative documentary about the aftermath of the assassination of President Bush in 2007, won the FIPRESCI jury prize at the 2006 Toronto International Festival, the critics who awarded the film did so "for the audacity with which it distorts reality to reveal a larger truth." This distortion of reality, though, is hardly audacious. Nor does it reveal larger truths; rather, it does the puny job of confirming fears and prejudices. Death of a President doesn't speculate at all. It says that the death of the president, to paraphrase Malcolm X on the killing of John Kennedy, is the chickens coming home to roost.

In 2007, America is still bogged down in the war in Iraq when Bush makes a trip to Chicago to speak about the economy. After facing hostile protesters outside the hall, Bush is shot and killed when he emerges from the building. After a swift investigation, a possibly innocent Arab-American with potential ties to Al-Qaeda is fingered. Once Dick Cheney inherits the presidency, he immediately makes amendments to the Patriot Act, and civil liberties are further jeopardized.

Death of a President initially unfolds in the style of an investigative documentary accumulating the events that take place prior to the shooting. Director/writer Gabriel Range adroitly uses digital effects to create an almost seamless sense of reality unfolding. The picture, though, starts to lose touch with reality as he continues to include interviews with Bush aides and the Secret Service (all played by actors). Besides the transparency of including these performers, their dialogue shrewdly cues the audience to the picture's views. As the investigation into the assassination starts rolling, the movie quickly turns into a cheesy TV thriller that bogs down in forensics, shady policy decisions and pat conclusions. Rather than opening up his subject and illustrating how Bush's death might affect a broad range of opinion, the world's as well as the country's, Range narrows everything down because it plays more comfortably to the pieties of a partisan audience. Distributor: Newmarket
Cast: Hend Ayoub, Brian Boland, Becky Ann Baker and Michael Reilly Burke
Director/Screenwriter: Gabriel Range
Producers: Gabriel Range, Simon Finch, Ed Guiney and Robin Gutch
Genre: Drama
Rating: Not yet rated
Running time: 93 min.
Release date: October 27 ltd

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