Review of Jimmy Carter Man From Plains directed by Jonathan Demme
rating *** 1/2
I was interested in seeing this documentary for a number of reasons. For one I'm a fan of Jonathan Demme. One of my favorite films is Something Wild. I also admire Jimmy Carter. I think he got a bum deal. He was one of our better presidents. Another reason I wanted to see this film is because it follows Jimmy Carter on his book tour for his book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. Since I'm doing my own book tour now, I wanted to see what it was like to go to a book signing where you sell 1600 books as opposed to mine where I'm lucky to sell six books.
The book tour is the force that drives the film, allowing the filmmakers to travel across the country with Jimmy Carter, but the theme of the movie is the controversy behind the book, especially the title. I have not read the book. I plan to now after seeing this film. But from the film I now know that the book basically accuses Israel of persecuting the Palestine people in much the same way as white South Africans persecuted blacks during Apartheid. And after listening to Jimmy Carter explain the realities of what's going on, I have to agree with him. Who would want to live their lives behind a forty foot wall.
The title of the book alone is enough to stir up controversy. Most of his critics, however, haven't read the book. They get hung up on the title and become so inflamed that they can't contain themselves. But if they would step back and listen (and read) they would see that the book gives both sides of the issue. He condemns the violence from Palestine. And the word in the title that angers so many people fits what's happening. Apartheid is defined as when one group of people forces their influence over another group of people.
Jonathan Demme also gives the issue fair balance. In one of Jimmy Carter's speeches he shows a student pointing out the drastic decrease in the number of suicide bombings since the wall was erected. I don't remember his response. I do remember it wasn't one of his better responses. He said something to the effect that he was okay with the wall as long as it was on the border and not inside Palestine. I don't agree with that at all. There should be no wall. Period. If you imprisoned every Palestinian, there would be a drastic decrease in violence as well. But is that a solution?
As far as selling books, it helps to be a former president. You name the media outlet and Jimmy Carter gets full exposure: PBS, CNN, Charlie Rose, the New York Times. The only thing missing was Oprah.
The DVD had an interesting commentary track with Jonathan Demme and one of the film's producers.