Foreign & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video ">
Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video
BOOGIE MAN: THE LEE ATWATER STORY
Lee Atwater has been a towering specter over American politics during the last three decades—a figure simultaneously legendary and largely unknown, exactly the way he had always wanted. Director Stefan Forbes delves into the life of Atwater from a rising star in College Republicans—working on the campaign of his future protégé Karl Rove—to becoming the mastermind behind the George H. W. Bush presidency. He died in 1991 of brain cancer.
Atwater was the pioneer in negative politicking, the man behind the modern Republican Party, a confidante of the Bush family, and reviled by Democrats and Republicans who stood in his way. Through interviews with friends and foes, Forbes creates a portrait of Atwater’s life that is simultaneously humanizing and demonizing. Likening Atwater’s rise and fall to a Greek tragedy, Forbes highlights the contradictions of Atwater’s life and politics at large, the ways in which Atwater would play the race card against his foes, like the airing of the infamous 1988 Willie Horton commercial, though he was a blues-loving guitar player in an otherwise all African-American group.
The film is
largely a straightforward documentary, with decent archival footage and
a lot of talking heads. But the debate of Atwater’s legacy is still
festering at the heart of American politics, and the great interviews
from the likes Michael Dukakis—whose career was ruined largely due to
Atwater—Sam Donaldson, and Atwater protégé Tucker Eskew make the film a
fascinating dissertation. Despite its often glacial pace, it reveals a
poignant look in the life of one of America’s towering behind-the-scenes
puppet masters. The film is a thoroughly engaging study, and in a year
that is rife with political documentaries, Boogie Man stands out
as a film to see. Dustin Nelson