DEATH OF A PRESIDENT
In October 2007, President George W. Bush arrives in Chicago for a speech at an economic function, greeted by furious protesters who stretch police resources. Inside the Sheraton, he gives a well received speech after which, despite Secret Service unease, he walks through a crowd of well wishers. In the middle of this meet-and-greet, he is shot down. The FBI begins its hunt for the assassin, interviewing several suspects - except one, Zikri (Hend Ayoub), a Syrian who was near the scene of the shooting and is found to have been to Pakistan and Afghanistan on a mission he wants to keep secret. He is eventually arrested, tried and convicted, all on largely circumstantial evidence. All participants in the drama - from FBI agents to suspects - speak to the filmmakers about the event and its tragic aftermath.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With Death of a President, a new movie genre is tried out: the hypothetical political documentary set in the present - or near enough. Made to look like a well researched documentary with real political figures, but imagining events, people, dialogue and motives, it is the big IF of non fiction filmmaking. But of course it IS fiction. What to make of it, especially when the subject is so loaded with potent political content: George Bush and the environment of extremist Islamic terrorists, the Iraq war and the frustrations of a population who are divided as to what to do, what to think or who to blame.
As a piece of filmmaking, Death of a President is edgy and fresh, superbly realised and satisfying in its ambition to pass as a powerful documentary about an event that shook the world. The fact that the event has not happened is the pivotal issue for how the film is received, not least because it pushes so many buttons. The real people (Bush, Cheney, etc) are augmented by actors whose faces are not well known and therefore carry the plausibility this new genre requires. The filmmakers - English lads - conjure up the atmosphere of a US in panic after the assassination with clever use of archival footage and digital technology.
What are they saying? The film presents one possible scenario in the aftermath of such an assassination, and while it may be entirely credible, it remains hypothetical and one of dozens of possible scenarios. The message that today's political climate could lead to a miscarriage of justice is one proposition, and it is allied to the convulsions of American society about the effects of the Iraq adventure on individual American families. All this is valid and relevant, if somewhat inconclusive, but the film's major achievement is in presenting this hypothetical scenario so well as to make us think ...
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DEATH OF A PRESIDENT (M)
CAST: Hend Ayoub, Brian Boland, Becky Ann Baker, Robert Mangiardi, Jay Patterson, Jay Whittaker
PRODUCER: Simon Finch, Ed Guiney, Gabriel Range
DIRECTOR: Gabriel Range
SCRIPT: Simon Finch, Gabriel Range
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Graham Smith
EDITOR: Brand Thumim
MUSIC: Richard Harvey
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gary Baugh
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 1, 2007