Thursday, 20 June 2013

Our Nixon

Richard Nixon is quite possibly one of the most polarising American president - not as beloved as Lincoln or Roosevelt, yet just as controversial as Bush Jnr.  Nixon's name is forever synonymous with the Watergate scandal when advisors tapped into phone lines during the Democratic Convention and brought down the Presidency.  One that he worked so hard for after so many knockbacks.

Tellingly, though Nixon lived in a world before current social media and the immediate culture where judgments are made instantly.  Nixon was in power when we still believed our leaders to be sacred, true and honourable.  To think Nixon and his advisors were as crooked as others was astonishing, and for a President to resign was as shocking as when Edward VIII abdicated the throne in the 1930s.

Young director, Penny Lane, has garnered video tape/home video footage of three advisors - H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin - were all convicted and served prison time for their efforts during the scandal.  Something that their leader was never afforded the chance to commit to.  

The footage used is quite an intriguing mixture of behind-the-scenes footage and contemporary interview footage of the three advisors.  Their loyalty to their subject is unwavering, even though they were in effect stool pigeons for the administration.

Some nice moments are the shots and views from Air Force One and Nixon pacing the Oval office, yet a lot of the footage is still the sort you watch in bad home videos - vain, self-glorious, egotistical fare that should be saved for the privacy of those who shot it.  The footage stayed locked up in a Government vault for many years along with White House tapes - and for all its blandness, there are some moments that elaborate on Nixon's overwhelming paranoia and rampant idealism for a perfect America that was slowly changing.

Our Nixon screens as part of the Open City Docs Fest (20th-23rd June) on Friday 21 June at Curzon Soho 6.30pm followed by a panel discussion including Paul Mitchell (director Watergate (1994)) and Saturday 22 June 6.30pm at Birkbeck Cinema. for listings and ticket information
Twitter: @OpenCityDocs

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