From the archive, originally posted by: [ mmm ]

In documentary style, film depicts Bush assassination

By Sarah Lyall The New York Times


LONDON The date is October 2007, and President George W. Bush’s
America is in anguish, rent by the war in Iraq and by a combustible
restiveness at home.

Leaving a hotel in Chicago after making a speech while a huge antiwar
protest rages nearby, the president is suddenly struck down, killed by
a sniper’s bullet.

That is the arresting beginning of “Death of a President,” a 90-minute
film that is to be broadcast here in October on More4, a British
digital television station. And while depicting the assassination of a
sitting president is provocation in itself, this film is doubly so
because it has been made to look like a documentary.

Using actual archival footage as well as computer-generated imagery
that, for instance, attaches the president’s face onto the body of the
actor playing him, the film leaves no doubt that the victim is Bush
rather than some generic president.

The film has not yet been released; indeed, the filmmakers were still
editing it on Friday and were not available for comment, said Gavin
Dawson, a spokesman for More4. But the station’s announcement this
week that it planned to present “Death of a President” as part of its
autumn season has raised something of a furor here.

“Whilst one is aware of other films that have shown assassinations,
those have been in the realm of fantasy,” said John Beyer, director of
Mediawatch-UK, which campaigns against sex and violence on television.
“To use the president of the United States, the real person, in some
fictional presentation – I think that is wrong.”

The U.S. Embassy in London directed calls to the White House, which
said: “We won’t dignify this with a response.”

But Peter Dale, the head of More4, was quoted in British newspapers as
saying that the film was not sensationalistic and did not advocate the
assassination of Bush.

“It has the combination of a gripping forensic narrative and also some
very thought-provoking places where you are encouraged to think about
the issues behind the narrative,” he said.

The film is first to be shown publicly on Sept. 10 at the Toronto Film
Festival. After it is broadcast on More4 – a digital channel that is
free but not available to everyone here – it will be aired on Channel
4, a nondigital channel that is the BBC’s main commercial competitor.

As part of its publicity campaign, More4 released a still from the
film depicting the moment Bush is shot. The picture, which has been
reprinted extensively in British newspapers, shows the stricken Bush
slumping forward into an aide’s arms, in front of a shocked, panicking
crowd, a bank of cameras flashing behind.

It evokes the iconic photographs of the mortally wounded Robert F.
Kennedy, shot after giving a speech in 1968. It also recalls John
Hinckley’s attempted assassination, in 1981, of Ronald Reagan outside
the Hilton Hotel in Washington.

Dale said that the focus of the film was on the assassination’s
aftermath, as the news media rush to judgment and as investigators
plumb America’s fear and anger, particularly in communities with most
cause to be angry at Bush. Suspicion soon focuses on Jamal Abu Zikri,
a Syrian-born man.

The movie, Dale said, is “a very powerful examination of what changes
are taking place in America” as a result of its foreign policy.

“I believe,” he said, “that the effects of the wars that are being
conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan are being felt in many ways – in the
multiracial communities in America and Britain, in the number of
soldiers who don’t come home – and that people are beginning to ask,
‘When will these body bags stop coming back? Why are we there? When
will it stop?'”

Two previous, well-regarded films by the same team have used the same
pseudo-documentary style to imagine the ramifications of disastrous
events, but set in Britain. One, “The Day Britain Stopped,” showed
Britain’s over- stretched transportation system in meltdown after a
series of mishaps cripples first the railroads and then the roads,
leading finally to the point when a passenger jet collides with a
freight plane over Hounslow.