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Review: Death of a President

movie reviews Updated: Sep 15, 2007 18:14 IST
Rashid Irani
Rashid Irani
Hindustan Times
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Death of a President
Cast: Brian Boland, Becky Ann Baker
Direction: Gabriel Range
Rating: ***

Right off, it arouses our curiosity - a speculative documentary on the 'assassination' of President George W. Bush in Chicago and the subsequent investigation.

The 'crime' remains unsolved. Is this disturbing? gripping? Or a head-scrambler?

All these actually, because director Range shoots Death of a President as a high-octane thriller. The 90-minute mockumentary has us absorbed even while the film's concept is faddishly provocative.

Earlier, the director had made The Day Britain Stopped, commenting on the UK's public transport system.

Surprisingly, Death... didn't set off the hue and cry incited by the works of Oliver Stone (JFK) and Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11). <b1>

At most, a couple of cinema chains banned the 'antiPrez' film. Kevin Costner and Hillary Clinton made some churlish statements - without having seen the film, incidentally.

The mock death of the 43rd President of the US (where four Presidents have been assassinated) is enacted outside Chicago's Sheraton Hotel surrounded by a huge crowd, protesting against Bush.

This is created through ingeniously edited 'live' footage spliced with clever hypothetical interviews, cautioning us that such an event could happen anytime, anywhere.

The faux documentary, then, suggests that a nation already paranoid about surveillance could be subjected to a 'Patriot Act' which tramples upon the Bill of Rights. Plus, questions are also raised, inevitably, about the US-Iraq war.

That a film literally gets away with 'murder' is one reason for sampling this political 'fantasy'. The other reason is that it's so technically inventive that it's a primer in where cinema verite has gone today.