Controversial ‘President’ shocks, provokes thought

Ally Melling


Credit: Steve Schirra

“President George W. Bush is dead.”

Whether or not they support the administration that has governed our country for nearly seven years, Americans have probably imagined what it would be like to wake up and read such a headline on their morning papers.

This is the basis of the near-futuristic American director Gabriel Range paints in Death of a President.

Range and fellow writer Simon Finch construct the film as a faux-documentary set years in the future. Filmed like a higher-quality, “Unsolved Mysteries” -esque TV special, the fictional documentary looks at the 2007 assassination of George W. Bush.

In this vision, Bush is gunned down by a sniper while greeting supporters in the lobby of a Chicago hotel. This occurs while thousands of Bush protesters scream for his blood outside.

The meat of the film is composed of a clever, visual rouse that combines reality and movie magic. Real footage is blended with fictional portions made solely for the film.

Fictional characters played by unrecognizable actors give interviews about Bush and are then shown, flawlessly super-imposed, near him minutes later. Those closest to him display their respect and sadness after the tragedy in documentary-style honesty without slipping into too much reality-TV melodrama.

But Death of a President doesn’t exist just to give Bush-haters some sort of sick pleasure. The assassination is shown with modesty and the movie is constructed with dignity and taste. Political commentary about Bush is sedated to coincide with the film style and portray him as a victim in pure and respectful light.

The real focus of the film is the statement about America illuminated by the aftermath of a national loss.

Whether viewers like Bush or not, the audience reels when Bush-protestors cheer after hearing of his death. They become terrified when successor President Cheney uses Bush’s death to expand the Patriot Act’s reach to all-new levels. They feel sick when the administration fingers an innocent Syrian man for the assassination, just because he is a Muslim, spent time in the Middle East and was near the scene of the crime.

And, ultimately, they realize that killing a poster-boy achieves nothing but trouble when masterminds are there to replace him.

However, there are moments where Death of a President teeters on the fine line of believable documentary and entertaining movie. Unlike the engrossing drama-style of Oliver Stone’s JFK and despite Death of a President’s serious documentary tone, the presentation after Bush’s assassination sometimes stumbles into dullness, predictability or cheesiness. This is especially evident when the real assassin is at last revealed after a few would-be killers are gimmicked to the audience.

Despite receiving film festival acclaim and the obviously fictional nature of the film, Death of a President play has been refused by multiple theater chains across the country. Hillary Clinton herself called the film “sick,” though she had not watched it.

Yes, the film would have been better if it was strictly a drama, but it makes a valiant effort at realism when dealing with such a controversial, fictitious subject.

Death of a President at least deserves one look before making assumptions, if only to see a fairly accurate projection of such a grand-scale “what if.”

Contact ALL reporter Ally Melling at [email protected].