Death of a President -
Where were you?
Where were you the day that President George W Bush was shot?
Thankfully, it's a hypothetical question, but it's a question we might
ask ourselves in the world conjured up by British writer-director
Gabriel Range and co-writer Simon Finch.
Death of a President is a fictional drama, but it is shot in
documentary style using actual newsreel footage (sometimes digitally
altered), some actual documentary footage they shot themselves,
and other documentary techniques, including fictional interviews. In
this weay the filmmakers can tell the 'story' -from a standpoint one
year later - of the imagined assassination of George W Bush, in October
The mere idea of this has provoked a hostile reaction in some
quarters. Hilary Clinton called it 'despicable' - without having
seen the film. The director maintains that he wanted to use the
assassination of the President 'as a device to tell a story about
the current political climate and what has happened in the last five
So is it a serious film? Does it handle this horrendous premise
appropriately? I think so. Many critics agree. The film won
won the International Critics Prize at the Toronto Film Festival. The Chicago Sun-Times said that thefilm
'may be even necessary to an understanding of George W Bush's role in
the world today. You see, the accused is a Muslim man originally from
Lawyers will find especially interesting the film's exploration of
America's reaction to the President's death. Under President Dick
Cheney, aides move quickly to establish the guilt of the chosen
suspect. Forensic tests that are initially 'inconclusive' must be
'looked at again' to strengthen a weak case. The Patriot Act III is passed to give
the government greater powers of surveillance and arrest. The US
Ambassador is recalled from Syria when Syria refuses to co-operate with
a request for information about the suspect. It's shaping up like Iraq
all over again. But do they have the right suspect in custody? Does
Though playing out like a forensic thriller, this film is an
intelligent examination of paranoia in action. The FBI jump to the
conclusion that the Prsident has been killed by Al Quaeda
operatives,and so suspicion falls on people with Arabic names.
The FBI Investigator denies this is racial profiling. It is, he says,
just a 'common-sense approach'. And whgen Syria refuses to hand over
the suspect's army records, the govenment accuses it of
'stonewalling', which somehow escalates into 'a heinous act of
terrorism' and 'state sponsored terrorism'.
Technically, the film is clever and almost seamless. In a way it is
like the recent, excellent United
93, in that it's a controversial, even
frightening, idea for a film, but it is a one that must be seen by
anyone who cares about freedom, justice and the rules of evidence.