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Death of a President

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« on: October 14, 2007, 01:59:35 am »

Directed by Gabriel Range
Written by Gabriel Range
Simon Finch
Starring Hend Ayoub
Brian Boland
Becky Ann Baker
Music by Richard Harvey
Cinematography Graham Smith
Editing by Brand Thumim
Distributed by Newmarket Films
Release date(s) September 10, 2006
Running time 115 minutes with commercials, 93 minutes without
Country U.K.
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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2007, 02:00:26 am »

Death of a President is a fictional documentary about the assassination of 43rd U.S. President George W. Bush. It is directed by British filmmaker Gabriel Range. The film uses archive footage, actors, and computer effects to portray an assassination of the 43rd U.S. president. The film covers topics of civil disobedience, racial profiling, the reduction of civil liberties, sensationalism and just-war theory.

The film premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, and was aired on the More 4 channel in the U.K. on October 9. It was then aired on Channel 4 in the U.K. on October 19, 2006 — a year to the day before the events portrayed in the film. This film will be at the theaters in Japan on October 6, 2007.

Newmarket purchased the U.S. distribution rights for $1 million.

The film is rated-R.
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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2007, 02:01:13 am »


A faux documentary broadcast in 2008 gives a news account, with talking head interviews, of the assassination of President George W. Bush on 19 October 2007. The fictional T.V. news broadcast relates how a hidden sniper fatally shot the president following an economic speech at the Chicago Sheraton Hotel, in front of which an anti-war rally was being held. A man of Syrian origins, Jamal Abu Zikri, becomes the prime suspect.

Vice President Dick Cheney, promoted to president, uses the possible al-Qaeda connection of the suspect to push his own agenda. He calls for "PATRIOT Act III", giving the F.B.I., police, and other government agencies increased investigative powers on U.S. citizens and others, and contemplates an attack on Syria.

After Zikri is convicted based on dubious forensic evidence, the report indicates that the perpetrator is most likely Al Claybon, an African-American 1991 Gulf War veteran living in Rock Island, IL, and father of a soldier who has recently died in the line of duty in Iraq. The assassin blames Bush for the death of his son and commits suicide after murdering Bush. His suicide note, addressed to his son Casey, a Chicago-based veteran of the Iraq War, reads:

“ Everything I stood for and raised you to stand for has turned bad. There's no honor in dying for an immoral cause. For lies. I love my country, but I love God, and the sons He gave me even more. I must do the right thing by you and by David. George Bush killed our David, and I cannot forgive him for that. ”

Ten months after the assassination, however, Zikri remains on death row with government officials holding up his appeal.

Casey Claybon later finds evidence in his father's house linking the father to planning the shooting of President Bush, the most incriminating of which is a copy of a top secret document outlining to the minute Bush's itinerary in Chicago on 19 October. As the film ends, the U.S. government is still in the midst of investigating how Claybon obtained this document.

It should be noted, that in the final captions before the credits, it is established that the PATRIOT Act III was signed into permanent law.

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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2007, 02:03:08 am »


The idea of the film received substantial criticism from those who believed the subject was exploitative and in bad taste. The Republican Party of Texas described the subject matter as "shocking" and "disgusting". U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) told the Journal News of Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties, New York, at the annual New Castle Community Day in Chappaqua, "I think it's despicable; I've never seen a movie so horrible in my life. I think it's absolutely outrageous. I mean, sure most people don't like Bush, but this is beyond bad. It's evil. That anyone would even attempt to profit on such a horrible scenario makes me sick". Co-screenwriter Simon Finch responded to the criticisms and said Clinton had not seen the film when she made her comments. The Bush Administration made no comment on the film. An extra named Robert Kramer, who appeared in the film as one of the ropeline extras during the assassination scene, asked to have his image edited out, alleging the filmmakers misled the actors as to the true intent of the pseudo-documentary.

Two of America's biggest cinema chains, Regal and Cinemark, refused to screen the film which was distributed in the U.S. by Newmarket Films. CNN and NPR would not run ads for the movie.

Critics were mixed in their assessment, with the Metacritic aggregate site giving it a 49 ("generally mixed") rating based on 30 reviews, while Rotten Tomatoes gives it at 37% ("rotten") based on 90 reviews. Time magazine's Richard Corliss called it "Engrossing but not enthralling", putting it in context with fictional political homicides from The Assassination of the Duc de Guise (1908) to Frank Sinatra's Suddenly (1954), as well as such T.V. series as 24, concluding it was "not an incendiary documentary but a well-made political thriller". J. Hoberman in the Village Voice found it "dramatically inert but a minor techno-miracle" and that it "skews more theoretical than sensationalist.... Bush is presented as a martyr". James Berardinelli says that "...if this was a serious examination of the possible long-term ramifications of George Bush's current foreign policy... it might be justifiable. The decision to use Bush rather than a fictional representation of him is for no reason other than self-promotion. That makes Death of a President crass in addition to being dull and sloppily assembled".

Those who praised it include Rex Reed of the New York Observer, who provided the filmmakers with the quote "Clever, thoughtful, and totally believable. This is a film without a political agenda that everyone should see" , and Peter Howell of the Canada's Toronto Star, who said, "The film's deeper intentions ... elevate it into the company of such landmark works of historical argument as Peter Watkins's "The War Game", Costa-Gavras's "Z" and, closer to home, Michel Brault's "Les Ordres". Every thinking person should see Death of a President"  Frank Lovece of Film Journal International said the film's condemnation "by politicians and pundits from James Pinkerton to Hillary Clinton is understandable and completely predictable: They can't not comment, so when they do they have to play to their audiences. None of them seriously believe that this work of fiction will really make someone take a pot-shot at the president, and anyway, the attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life came out of a crazy guy's fascination with Jodie Foster, so you may as well decry movies starring blonde former child actresses".

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« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2007, 02:03:38 am »

In 2007, the film ethics authorities in Japan took steps to prevent "Death of a President" from being shown at most Japanese movie theaters, citing the film's inappropriate Japanese title. It is nevertheless set to open in Japan on October 6, 2007.

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« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2007, 02:04:44 am »

Death of A President received attention on CNN.

The film won the International Critics Prize (F.I.P.R.E.S.C.I.) at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival
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« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2007, 02:08:42 am »

Row over Bush TV 'assassination' 
Death of a President

Death of a President uses actors and computer effects to dramatise the assassination of President Bush.

The Republican Party in Texas has said it is "shocking" and "disturbing" that a TV drama is to depict the assassination of US President Bush.

Death of a President uses archive footage, actors and computer effects to portray the president being shot dead.

UK broadcaster Channel 4, who made the mock documentary, said it explored the effects of the War on Terror on the US.

But Gretchen Essell, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Texas, called for it not to be screened.

  I don't know if there are many people in America who would want to watch something like that

Gretchen Essell
Republican Party of Texas
"I cannot support a video that would dramatise the assassination of our president, real or imagined," she told the Press Association news agency.

"The greater reality is that terrorism still exists in our world. It is obvious that the war on terror is not over.

"I find this shocking, I find it disturbing. I don't know if there are many people in America who would want to watch something like that."

The 90-minute film shows Mr Bush being targeted by a sniper during anti-war rally in Chicago in 2007.

He is confronted by a demonstration when he arrives in the city to deliver a speech to business leaders and is shot as he leaves the venue.

The ensuing investigation focuses on a Syrian-born man.


A White House spokesman said of the programme: "We are not going to comment because it does not dignify a response."

The drama will have its world premiere at next month's Toronto Film Festival before a screening on UK digital channel More4.

John Beyer of UK TV pressure group MediaWatch said the film was "irresponsible".

He said it could even trigger a real assassination attempt and told the Daily Mirror: "There's a lot of feeling against President Bush and this may well put ideas into people's heads."

  "There will be people who will be upset by it but when you watch it you realise what a sophisticated piece of work it is."

Peter Dale
Head of More4

Peter Dale, head of More4, described it as a "thought-provoking critique" of contemporary US society.

He said: "It's an extraordinarily gripping and powerful piece of work, a drama constructed like a documentary that looks back at the assassination of George Bush as the starting point for a very gripping detective story.

"It's a pointed political examination of what the War on Terror did to the American body politic.

"I'm sure that there will be people who will be upset by it but when you watch it you realise what a sophisticated piece of work it is.

"It's not sensationalist or simplistic but a very thought-provoking, powerful drama. I hope people will see that the intention behind it is good."

Producers of the film, which is directed by Gabriel Range, hope to sell the broadcast rights to the US.

Death of a President will be shown on More4 on 9 October.
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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2007, 02:11:21 am »

US theatres refuse to screen 'Death of a President'

Saturday October 7, 04:19 PM

Washington, Oct. 7 (ANI): Most of the biggest theatre chains in the US have reportedly refused to screen the controversial film 'Death of a President', which depicts a fictional assassination of President George W. Bush.

The R-rated film sparked controversy when it was premiered last month at the Toronto Film Festival, where it won the International Critics Prize and scored a U.S. distribution deal with Newmarket Films.

Mike Campbell, CEO of Regal Entertainment Group says that portrayal of the future assassination of a sitting President is a big turn off for them, as they don't consider it to be an appropriate subject matter for a film.

"We would not be inclined to program this film. We feel it is inappropriate to portray the future assassination of a sitting President, regardless of political affiliation," E!online quoted him as telling Hollywood Reporter.

Set in 2007, after the passage of the so-called Patriot Act 3, Death of a President plays out like a typical TV documentary, but its writer-director Gabriel Range has used digitally blended archival footage of President Bush with staged scenes to depict his murder, and its aftermath.

The film focuses more on the FBI's hunt for Bush's killer, and whether a Syrian-born suspect is really the triggerman. (ANI)
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« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2007, 02:12:55 am »

US cinemas reject President film 
Death of a President will be shown on More4 on Monday

Two US cinema chains say they will not screen a controversial British film portraying the fictional assassination of President George W Bush.
Death of a President, which shows Mr Bush being shot dead, secured a US distribution deal last month.

A third major chain said it was unsure whether to show the mock documentary, which is due to open on 27 October.

The film, which has raised protests from conservatives in the US, will be shown on UK TV channel More4 on Monday.


Regal Entertainment Group, which has more than 6,300 screens in 40 US states, said it would not show the film because of its subject matter.

Spokesman Dick Westerling said: "We do not feel it is appropriate to portray the future assassination of a president, therefore we do not intend to programme this film at any of our theatres."

Mr Westerling said Regal had received "numerous phone calls and e-mails" supporting the company.

Even if the film became a hit in other venues, Regal would stand by its decision, he added.

Cinemark USA, which operates about 2,500 screens in 34 states, told trade newspaper The Hollywood Reporter it would not screen the film.

A spokeswoman for AMC Entertainment, which runs 5,600 screens, told Reuters news agency her company had yet to make a decision.

Archive footage

Richard Abramowitz, consultant for US distributor Newmarket Films, said the film had been booked to be screened in more than 100 venues.

Death of a President, funded by Channel 4, shows Mr Bush being targeted by a sniper during an anti-war rally in Chicago in 2007.

He is confronted by a demonstration when he arrives in the city to deliver a speech to business leaders and is shot as he leaves the venue.

Director Gabriel Range, who also co-wrote the film, uses archive footage of Mr Bush to create the scenes that lead up to the president being shot.

Digital effects are used to superimpose his head onto an actor for the assassination scene.

The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September.

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« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2007, 02:14:22 am »

Bush 'murder' film seals US deal 
Death of a President will be shown on UK digital channel More4

A controversial British film portraying the fictional assassination of President George Bush has secured a distribution deal for the US.
Death of a President, which shows Mr Bush being shot dead, was sold for $1m (£535,000) to Newmarket Films.

The movie's subject matter has raised protests from conservatives in the US, and director Gabriel Range says he has received five or six death threats.

The mock documentary will be shown on UK digital channel More4 in October.

Death of a President, funded by Channel 4, shows Mr Bush being targeted by a sniper during an anti-war rally in Chicago in 2007.

He is confronted by a demonstration when he arrives in the city to deliver a speech to business leaders and is shot as he leaves the venue.

Digital effects

Range, who also co-wrote the film, uses archive footage of Mr Bush to create the scenes that lead up to the president being shot.

Digital effects are used to superimpose his head onto an actor for the assassination scene.

  I don't think anyone would get the idea of assassinating Bush from this film

Gabriel Range
Director, Death of a President
The film has drawn criticism from Mr Bush's Republican party, which has branded the film "shocking" and "disturbing".

But Range says people have rushed to judge his work.

"Our film has a very striking premise but it is not sensational or gratuitous," he told Reuters news agency.

"It is an oblique look at the ways the United States has changed since 9/11.

"I don't think anyone would get the idea of assassinating Bush from this film."

Newmarket Films, which also distributed Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, is expected to give the film a wide release in the US within the next few months.
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« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2007, 02:15:46 am »

Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2006, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK 

Bush assassination film defended 
Death of a President will be shown on UK digital channel More4
The director of a movie portraying the fictional assassination of US President George Bush has defended his film after critics called it "irresponsible".
Gabriel Range said people had rushed to judge the film as it received its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

"It is using the lens of the future to look at the present," Range said. "It is about issues that have affected us all in the last five years."

Mr Bush's Republican party has branded the film "shocking" and "disturbing".

John Beyer of UK TV pressure group MediaWatch said the film "may well put ideas into people's heads".

Horrific event

But Range said he did not believe the film glorified the president's death.

"I think the film makes it clear it would really be a horrific event," he told the Associated Press news agency.

"I really don't think that anyone would get the idea of assassinating Bush from this film."

Presented as a mock documentary, Death of a President shows Mr Bush being targeted by a sniper during an anti-war rally in Chicago in 2007.

He is confronted by a demonstration when he arrives in the city to deliver a speech to business leaders and is shot as he leaves the venue.

  It seemed very real... I found myself mesmerised

Linda Walsh
Audience member

The ensuing investigation focuses on a Syrian-born man and recalls the controversy over President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, as debate rages over whether the sniper was a lone gunman or part of a bigger conspiracy.

"It is a film about America today," Range told the audience after the premiere.

The film's producers said they had chosen to put President Bush in the movie to make it more realistic.

"The central conceit of the film was that it is a drama, but told in the style of what we hope is a fairly authentic, classic, retrospective documentary," said producer Simon Finch, who co-wrote the screenplay with Range.

"Clearly, if we had told a retrospective documentary with a fictional president, it would have undermined and undercut that central idea."


The film was shown to a sell-out crowd at the Toronto Film Festival, who applauded at the end of the screening and several times during a question and answer session with the producers.

"It seemed very real," said audience member Linda Walsh. "I found myself mesmerised."

Ms Walsh, from Mill Valley, California, said she hoped the film would make people think "about the war, about the Patriot Act, about our judicial system."

Death of a President was made by UK broadcaster Channel 4, and will be shown on the digital channel More4 on 9 October.

It was being screened in Toronto in the hope of finding a US distributor.
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« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2007, 02:30:17 am »

CNN, NPR refuse ads for assassination film
Controversial film caused stir at Toronto Film Festival

Updated: 2:17 p.m. CT Oct 24, 2006
LOS ANGELES - Two major U.S. news outlets, CNN and National Public Radio, will not air advertisements for a controversial movie depicting the assassination of President Bush, citing the film’s content, network spokeswomen said Tuesday.

The movie, “Death of a President,” caused a stir at the Toronto Film Festival in September where it debuted, and two major U.S. theater chains have declined to screen the movie when it debuts in the United States Friday.

“CNN has decided not to take the ad because of the extreme nature of the movie’s subject matter,” the cable television network said in a statement.

A spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the statement. The network has reported about the movie in recent months.

NPR will not run sponsor announcements to avoid any notion that it was reporting about the movie because it took the sponsorships, an NPR spokeswoman said.

“The movie is fairly likely to generate significant controversy and we’ll cover it as a news story,” said spokeswoman Andi Sporkin. “To take a sponsorship spot would raise questions and cause confusion” among listeners.

“Death of a President” is told like a documentary that tracks the political drama behind an investigation into Bush’s murder in October 2007.

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The film, which was directed by Britain’s Gabriel Range, uses digital technology to depict Bush being gunned down, and its detractors have criticized the display of murdering a sitting president.

Its distributors at Newmarket Films say the film ultimately tries to send audiences an anti-violence message and Newmarket noted many major newspapers such as The New York Times and Washington Post have run ads.

“’Death of a President’ is the opposite of a call for violence,” Newmarket co-founder Chris Ball said in a statement. ”It’s a powerfully cautionary tale about the pernicious effects of violence.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. No. 1 theater chain Regal Entertainment Group and a smaller competitor, Cinemark USA, said they would not screen the movie.

About 100 local and art-house venues around the country will screen the film at its debut.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.
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« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2007, 02:40:56 am »

Death of a President (2006)
B B Critics' Grades and Average Readers Chicago Sun-Times N.Y. Daily News Philadelphia Inquirer USA Today Variety Boston Globe EW Critics' Average
B -- -- -- -- -- -- B+ B

ASSASSINATION TANGLE A fake Justice Department press conference in Death, a faux documentary that paints a vivid, nonpartisan portrait of the aftermath of George W. Bush's murder Watch it Find Showtimes
Limited Release: Oct 27, 2006; Rated: R; Length: 93 Minutes; Genres: Drama, Mystery

B+By Owen Gleiberman Owen Gleiberman
 Owen Gleiberman is a film critic for EW

When I first heard about Death of a President, a fake documentary that depicts the assassination of George W. Bush, I assumed that it would be a fashionably irresponsible piece of demagogic leftist wish-fulfillment, a righteous political harangue posing as reality. Actually, it's more somber and tangled and ingenious than that. The movie is a provocation, but not a glib or ideologically myopic one. It strikes the urgent, open-eyed tone of a Frontline investigative report, interspersing video-surveillance footage with talking-head testimony from (fictional) U.S. officials and Secret Service agents — and, in the film's most startling and resonant trick, assembling the heart of its staged reality out of actual news footage.

Early on, there are clips of demonstrators who line the streets chanting ''Chicago hates Bush!'' as the narrator describes a mood of despair that has fermented into chaos and collective fury. Death of a President hits the zeitgeist jackpot; it roots itself in an all too timely mood of souring national rage. The movie, which begins in 2007, shows us President Bush arriving at the airport and addressing the partisan Economic Club of Chicago in a jokey speech that touches on North Korea's nuclear ambitions, then joining a crowd of participants for an informal rope-line meet and greet. The director, Gabriel Range, who has made a number of dramas in documentary form for British television, forges a grainy, newsreel, believe-your-eyes verisimilitude, a technique that works stunningly well right up through the assassination, in which a flash of blood and a subliminal glimpse of the president's crumpling body evoke both the dawn-of-the-media-age horror of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald and the attempted assassination of President Reagan. A jolting close-up of Dick Cheney as he delivers Bush's eulogy in eerily precise detail will make you wonder how the filmmakers brought it off. (They used a clip of Cheney from Reagan's funeral, digitally fudging a few words.)

The film's atmosphere of plausibility is its most devious trick: If we believe Death of a President as we're watching it, then we implicitly buy the assassination of George Bush not as a far-fetched crackpot dream but as an act that could literally emerge from the collision of these crowds, this president. Even if you think of yourself as a proud Bush basher, you may be surprised at how the prospect of political homicide makes you recoil, makes you want to see the president protected.

In its second half, as it traces the hunt for the killer, Death of a President becomes a whodunit that is also a cautionary tract. Eager to fold the calamity into its war on terror, the government pins the assassination on a Syrian national who is clearly innocent. If that sounds like a didactic thesis, it is. Yet even as it sketches in a national clampdown that is observationally and satirically rather humdrum (ratcheting up the Patriot Act, etc.), the movie makes you realize just how much we now accept in this country as business as usual. Death of a President begins as a disturbingly clever stunt but concludes as a contradiction, a political nightmare of haunting banality.,,1550535,00.html
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2007, 02:55:44 am »

Who Killed George Bush?
Monday, Sep. 11, 2006 By RICHARD CORLISS

Sunday night, on the eve of the fifth 9/11 anniversary, docudrama was dynamite in North America. As millions in the U.S. watched the Clinton Administration botch snuffing out al-Qaeda on the first of ABC TV's two-part miniseries The Path to 9/11, hundreds of Canadians crowded into a Paramount multiplex theater to see the Toronto International Film Festival's world premiere of Death of a President, a sober fakeumentary from Britain's Channel 4 that imagines the assassination of the current President Bush in Chicago on Oct. 19, 2007, and depicts it in footage so persuasive that some viewers may need to give themselves a reality-check pinch.

The producers of the ABC show insisted it was factual — but with some made-up stuff. The director of the Channel 4 show stressed it was fiction — but with copious archival footage of Bush to give the shooting a creepy verismo. If these declarations were made to clarify the makers' intentions, the strategy backfired. Advance reports of both efforts spurred demands for their suppression, virtually all of them from people who hadn't seen them.

In the case of The Path to 9/11, former Clinton officials, and the ex-Prez himself, called for the show to be yanked, on the grounds that certain White House scenes went counter to the facts as contained in the bipartisan 9/11 Commission report, on which the show was purportedly based. As for Death of a President, its detractors — from Rush Limbaugh to the Republican Party of Texas — claimed that the very existence of a Bush-assassination movie that trafficked in surface realism was reckless at best and at worst would encourage the act it portrayed. Limbaugh said Democrats would "demand that elected politicians actually endorse the movie, at their own peril if they don't."

My guess is that, like any smart entrepreneurs, the people behind these shows wanted to stoke free publicity on the news pages and talk shows. In that case, mission accomplished. Death of a President— which was impishly acronymed in the TIFF press material as D.O.A.P. (go on, say it out loud) — quickly became the festival's hottest ticket. "Publicists representing D.O.A.P seem to spend all their time rebuffing pleas for tickets," wrote Barbara Vancheri in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "As one said, 'It's like being the big-breasted blond woman on the beach in a tiny bikini,' and everyone wants a look." This excitement, suavely manufactured by the Festival and abetted by the film's detractors, will surely help boost the asking price; the movie came to Canada without a U.S. distributor.

The 8:30 p.m. screening was delayed a half-hour while every seat was filled and a few dozen chairs were brought in for other spectators — while more than a hundred people in the Queue for Returns line were sent away. Noah Cowan, the festival co-director who had done his bit for Death of a President by blurbing it as "easily the most dangerous and breathtakingly original film I have encountered this year," warned the crowd that to counter illegal recording, "there will be night-vision goggling." Gabriel Range, the film's director, co-producer and co-writer, said a few words, and finally it was on with the show.

The film's first 25 mins. trace the events leading to the murder: Air Force One's landing at O'Hare, the massed street protests near the sites of Bush's appointments, his speech before a bipartisan economics group, his exit from the hotel and, as he strides out with crowds roped off on either sides, BANG!, his collapse to the ground (this accomplished by superimposing the President's face on an actor's body). Interwoven are interviews with fictional members of the White House staff, the FBI and the Chicago Police Dept.

Some evidence suggests that the sniper was a Syrian man who worked in the building from which the fatal shot was fired, and who may have had al-Qaeda sympathies. The FBI investigates other leads, but, as with the events after 9/11, Dick Cheney, now President, uses the tenuous al-Qaeda connection to push his own harsh agenda. He calls for a Patriot Act 3, suspending most civil liberties, and for military engagement with Syria. An already grotesque world situation keeps growing tesquer.

So whodunit? We'll get to that shortly. But first, the audience. TIFF audiences are among the most generous and enthusiastic in the world, but they gave Death of a President only lukewarm applause over the closing credits. They'd been so pumped up, I suspect, that the film itself almost had to be a letdown. Engrossing but not enthralling, Death of a President let the air out of its own balloon. It was hard not to be impressed by the expertise of the intercutting (archive footage, staged demonstrations and fictional interviews), by the seamlessness of the photo-realism and photoshopping. But this cleverness inevitably drew attention to itself and away from the subject. Those members of the film-savvy crowd who stayed afterward for a chat session with Range and co-writer Simon Finch asked as many questions about how'd-ja-do-it as about why'd-ja-make-it. They were more impressed by the medium than by the message.


"I hope we portrayed the horror of assassination," Range said at the TIFF screening. "There have been plenty of fictional films about assassination, and I don't think anyone would get the idea of assassinating Bush from this film." Range also declared that his movie meant to use the death of this President essentially as a device to investigate what might change in domestic and international affairs if Bush were gone.

Really? Then why have him assassinated? He could die of natural causes (some undiagnosed illness). He could be impeached. And you'd still have Cheney to kick around. No, Range shows the assassination because he can do it. He can put it on film with an eerie plausibility. And ethics be damned.

But Range — as a storyteller, not a journalist — needn't make excuses. For one thing, there's a simple justification for speculating on Bush's possible death: a strange mathematical coincidence. Since 1840, the previous nine presidents elected in a year divisible by 20 has either been killed (four), died in office of natural causes (four) or, like Reagan, been the victim of an assassin's bullet. Bush, declared the winner of the 2000 election, is next in line.

For another, ethics don't loom large in the creation of fiction, on the page, the stage or the screen. John Irving said that fiction was the business of inventing wonderful people and then whacking them with the worst fate you can dream up. The Greeks imagined a king who killed his father and married his mother, and Shakespeare could hardly write a tragedy without a regicide angle. It's also been a running storyline on 24. Opera, melodrama, horror movies — all create worst-case scenarios, whose extremes teach home truths. Susan Sontag called science fiction "the imagination of disaster." The same goes for a genre that seeks the most lurid explanation for historical events. Call it poli-sci-fi.

David Weigel of, in an astute piece about Death of a President piquantly titled "Other Than That, Mrs. Bush, How Was the Film?", mentions Nicholson Baker's 2003 novel Checkpoint as one of many novels about a plan to kill Bush. The novelist Richard Condon never lacked for poli-scifi cojones — in Emperor of America he blew up the White House — but his specialty was death-of-a-president fantasies. In The Manchurian Candidate, published in 1959 and filmed three years later, he postulated the assassination of a presidential nominee by a Joe McCarthy type (the right-wingers did it!) who was controlled by an agent for the Soviet Union (no, the Commies did!). And in the 1974 Winter Kills, also filmed a few years after it appeared, Condon portrayed a president very like John F. Kennedy who is assassinated by... his father Joe!

A Bush assassination fable in the Condon spirit would have Dubya in 2007 privately ready to back out of Iraq, only to be stopped by a gunman hired by Bush's old strings-puller, and the new president, Dick Cheney. But a peacenik or Islamist or disgruntled office-seeker pulling the trigger? Not if he considers the consequences. Those around Richard Nixon used to joke that no one would shoot him, because then Spiro Agnew would become President. Similarly, anyone who harbored murderous impulses toward Bush might think for a minute and, to put in in Maureen Dowd terms, let W. live, in order to keep Darth Vader from taking over.

Death of a President isn't that conspiratorial. Rather, it's in a long line of movies that imagine the death or near-death of political royalty — from the French film, The Assassination of the Duc de Guise, which was all the rage of 1908, to The Assassination of Richard Nixon, which mixed archival footage with Sean Penn acting up a maelstrom. That movie came and went without much outrage two years ago, as did the 1954 drama Suddenly with Frank Sinatra as a psycho waiting for a shot at the President as he passes through a small town. In political thrillers the plot is almost a cliche. Stop me if you've seen these before: In the Line of Fire, Air Force One, The Sentinel &...

The difference here is that the President does die. Fictionally! For all its trappings of realism, the Range movie is essentially a traditional murder mystery with political overtones. And now, Columbo-like, I'm going to reveal the killer's identity. If you don't want to know — and don't want the explanation of why it makes dramatic and historical sense — stop reading now.


The movie's red herring is the Syrian suspect. He is superficially plausible both because of the plague of Islamic jihadism and because of our memory of Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian who in 1968 shot Robert F. Kennedy because, he said, of Bobby's support for Israel in the Six-Day War. If Sirhan was indeed the lone gunman, then the assassination (which is dramatized in the Emilio Estevez movie Bobby, also playing in Toronto) could be said to mark the birth of Arab terrorism on U.S. soil.

But the weight of history leads us to another suspect. Look to your almanacs, folks. Who kills American presidents? Americans!

The perpetrator is the father of a soldier who had died on duty in Iraq. He blames Bush for the young man's death, shoots the President, then himself. The killer's suicide note reads: "There's no honor in standing for an immoral country. George Bush killed our David and I can't forgive him." So this time it's personal. And the assassin... is black.

The switcheroo is true to history: the killers and would-be killers of Presidents usually did so out of private grief or deranged rage. And it reminds us of something Americans have forgotten as they look outward for their most spectacular villains. The expectation that an Arab/Islamic terrorist would have his finger on the trigger shows how meekly Americans have ceded the top spot in crazy political violence to newcomers from abroad. We have a rich and disgraceful history of political violence in particular and gun violence in general. 9/11 may have changed a lot of things, but it didn't instantly turn all foreigners into assassins, or all our homegrown criminal population into pacifists.

Death of a President can be commended for making this point, within the confines of, not an incendiary documentary but a well-made political thriller. As for its fate when it achieves U.S. distribution (which it surely will), I have a prediction, which I guarantee has a better chance of coming true that Rush's. It's that the film will be one of those curios that millions of people read about but few pay to see. It will be forgotten in a year — except by the Secret Service. You can be sure that, next Oct. 19, they won't let George Bush go anywhere near Chicago.,8599,1533715,00.html
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2007, 02:59:20 am »

Assassination Tango
Controversial docu-drama imagines a post-Bush scenario
by J. Hoberman
October 24th, 2006 2:06 PM

A Secret Service agent in Death of a President
photo: Newmarket Films

Manufactured history guarantees a manufactured controversy: Gabriel Range's Death of a President, which docudramatizes the 2007 assassination of George W. Bush, has been preceded by a long, raucous fanfare.
Excoriated on talk radio, damned as a snuff film, banned by two theater chains, the British production has also garnered celebrity dis-endorsements. It was criticized unseen by assassination movie veteran Kevin Costner ("We can't, like, wish . . . ") and denounced (also unseen) by Hillary Clinton: "That anyone would even attempt to profit on such a horrible scenario makes me sick."

Is Death of a President more exploitative than JFK? (That was a snuff film.) And didn't Fox turn a buck on Independence Day, which jovially incinerated the White House when Mrs. Clinton was actually living there? The difference is lése-majesté: Death of a President presents the "real" Bush in a fictional situation. (It's the opposite of the egregious telefilm DC 9/11: Time of Crisis, which featured a fictional Bush.)

Dramatically inert but a minor techno-miracle, Range's movie is a faux documentary with fake talking heads and seamless digital effects. Invented characters are gumped into actual news events and vice versa. The editing and audio sleight of hand are nearly as impressive. Range, who previously "documented" the collapse of British transport, used actual Chicago street protests to provide the illusion of crowds breaking police barriers to mob the presidential limo. But that's not the money shot: The assassination occurs when, leaving the Sheraton, supposedly surrounded by 12,000 flag-burning demonstrators, the president elects to work the rope line.

Death of a President's method and location recall Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool, which staged a fictional story against the chaotic backdrop of the 1968 Democratic convention. But Range skews more theoretical than sensationalist—and if he's celebratory, it's not in the way Rush Limbaugh imagines. Bush is presented as a martyr. (Appropriately, the movie is distributed by the company that released The Passion of the Christ.) Range may be overcompensating, but he has the slain president praised throughout by adoring staffers and mealymouthed acolytes; even at the hospital, a functionary tells the press the chief surgeon has "never seen such a strong heart in a man of the president's age." The obvious reference is Ronald Reagan. If the attempt on Reagan's life offers Range a dramatic template, the mass amnesia occasioned by Reagan's funeral is far more crucial—and not just because it provides Dick Cheney's eulogy.

Bush is but a special effect. Death of a President is really a movie about 9-11—an essay on a national tragedy used to create an even greater tragedy. (That's the scenario that really should have made Senator Clinton "sick.") It's also a movie about itself—a demonstration of reality shaped to fit a particular hypothesis. There doesn't seem to be any irony there. Range saves that for the investigation. The system is flooded with detainees while, in the matter of suspects, use value trumps truth. President Cheney suggests that his security adviser "take another look" at Syria. The infinite elasticity of "national security" enables a new Patriot Act to trample the Bill of Rights. But Death of a President's warning about blowback has its own unintended consequences: What follows the assassination is so awful that anyone might be excused for leaving the theater convinced of the urgent need to keep Bush alive.

The world was awash in cinema vérité 40 years ago, when British maverick Peter Watkins more or less invented the faux documentary with The War Game. He's been refining the form ever since, but Death of a President has nowhere near Watkins's agitational fervor. (Or his critical intelligence: Even if you believe that Bush is the worst president in history, it matters not whether he is impeached, falls from his bicycle, or gets raptured to heaven—the damage has been done.) Death of a President is ultimately just an exercise. There's a far more subversive political mock-umentary coming next week. I invite President Bush, Senator Clinton, and all politicians to get down with Borat.,hoberman,74819,20.html
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