Anytown, USA/The War Room

Anytown-usa Anytown, USA: Year: 2005, Director: Kristian Fraga

The-war-room The War Room: Year: 1993, Director: Chris Hegedus & D.A. Pennebaker, Budget: ?, Gross: $901 668

for almost two year leading up to the past elections in the united states the political campaign was front page news.  from the primaries through to the general election this was one of the most tightly fought and publicly engaging campaigns in recent memory.  now i don't know about you, but i have to admit some withdrawal feelings since november 5th when all was said and done.  sure there has been plenty of politics to deal with, but there is something about a campaign that i just find completely compelling.

so, with that in mind and with the historic inaugural just a few days away, i figured it would be a good time to check out two great documentaries that take you behind the political campaigns, and let us see them from the other side: The War Room and Anytown, USA.

The War Room takes us behind the 1992 bill clinton campaign for president and Anytown, USA gives us an insiders look at the race for mayor in bogota, new jersey in 2003.  two campaigns on two totally different scales, but when it comes to politics and power things are never really that different, be it the presidency of the country or the mayoralty of a town with a population of about 5000 people.

i love going behind the scenes in general.  i like seeing how something is made or created and what goes on that the public doesn't see, and these films do exactly that.  besides showing us that politics is politics no matter where you go, both films were interesting for me in two separate ways.

as for The War Room, i remember watching that campaign transpire.  i remember the clinton interview on 60 minutes and the sax playing on arsenio and the debates against bush and perot, etc... so for me this film was like taking me behind history to see all the events of the campaign, the ups and the downs, from inside the campaign, with much of the focus on the two primary architects of it all, james carville and george stephanopoulos.  i was watching the history that i remember, just from another side, which is a fascinating opportunity.

with Anytown USA i have to plead ignorance about the campaign when it took place.  which i would assume is acceptable since i don't live in bogota, new jersey.  so, for me this wasn't a retelling of an event that i already new about, but rather a first time telling of a mayoral campaign in which the incumbent republican mayor was legally blind and was running against a democrat and a blind write-in independent candidate.  yup, you read that right: two blind candidates. so, there is the kicker to it all, but in the end that feels more like a sidebar to the story, as the three way race develops and politics rules - if you thought local politics were all clean and friendly and nice then you will have your innocence broken after watching Anytown, USA...

both films are facsinating looks at two very different, yet not so differnet (somplaints about lies from the other side, campaign signs being torn down, etc...), political campaigns and both films will completely engage you with their stories and their characters as they move towards declaring a winner.