The Best Mockumentary You Will Never See
|Starring:||Hend Ayoub, Brian Boland, Becky Ann Baker, Robert Mangiardi|
There is nothing more predictable than first response to this sentence: “Gabriel Range’s new film, `Death of a President,’ is about the assassination of George W. Bush on Oct. 19, 2007.”
Here’s the sequence of your thoughts:
2. Can they make a film like that?!
3. That’s one movie I’ll never see.
Beyond all the obvious up to this point, nothing is to be taken for granted otherwise about “Death.” It is a stunning work, literally. It will leave you dazed, floored, stupefied. (That is, if you see it… but you won’t.)
To begin with it’s neither a mockumentary, nor a fictional documentary, nor documented fiction… I just don’t know what to call it. But it is GOOD; if you drag yourself into the theater, you will be grabbed, buffeted, your anticipation and second-guessing will turn out to be all wrong.
The opening narrative, right off the bat, seems obvious, but will gain a totally different meaning when it’s repeated at the end. Exciting as the “recreation” of the foul deed may be, “Death” is really more about the capturing, trial, and conviction of the suspected assassin, who may or may not be the killer. Not that the 44th President, Dick Cheney, cares about that. But you may. (While, incredible as it may seem, you begin to feel somewhat nostalgic about No. 43.)
British journalist and film-maker (“The Menendez Murders,” “The Day Britain Stopped”) Range is brilliant. Overlapping documentary and fictional footage blend flawlessly. Bush, Cheney, many others “play” themselves, are themselves. The interviews with actors playing Secret Service agents, government officials, etc. are totally believable – in fact, they may fool you for a while, even a long while.
Range’s work has little to do with what may appear to be an obvious twin, Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” except for dealing with the same national shame of fear and fear-mongering. Moore tried to fill in the gaps left in what is known and what is claimed. “Death of the President” projects our sorry time into the world of Patriot Act III.
Range is clear about the certainty of being denounced, sight unseen: “I have always known that I would be condemned for the very idea of this film,” he has said, “but I believe that sometimes it is not only acceptable for art to be outrageous – it is necessary.
“We live in a time of incredible fear… The advance condemnation of this film by politicians and pundits who have not seen – and may never see – this film reflects the landscape of fear in which we live today, and which my film attempts to address.”