A French doc looks at why film and TV presidents are handsome and competent, Kate Taylor writes
When French filmmaker Emilio Pacull set out to make a documentary about how American movies and television shows depict the U.S. presidency, he thought he would be offering a critique of Hollywood fantasy, media manipulation and the blurring boundary between TV and reality in the United States. Instead, he discovered that some much-needed idealism might be bleeding from the fictional world into real politics.
« I changed my mind, » said Pacull in French in a telephone interview from Paris, where the Chilean-born director has worked for 35 years. « There is a real democratic force in Hollywood. I thought it was more monolithic but I realized there were individuals who can put forward new ideas…. The impression you are left with at the end of the film is of the great vitality of America and of American TV. »
The film in question is Mr. President, an English-language documentary airing tonight at 10 on CBC Newsworld, which intersperses interviews with political journalists and Hollywood producers with clips from the many depictions of the president on film and TV, from Wag the Dog and The West Wing to Independence Day and 24.
It is part of a trilogy Pacull has in the works: The first part was Hollywood and the Pentagon, an investigation of how the Pentagon seeds positive images of the U.S. military on film in exchange for lending producers the hardware; the third will be about how the relationship between the Pentagon and the White House is represented on film, taking Pacull into the realm of power struggles and coups. But in the meantime, Mr. President addresses the pros and cons of America’s many fictional depictions of its presidency.