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Thursday, Nov. 18, 2004 01:29 am

Films to keep the political fires burning

Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire (2004)

If you're suffering from election withdrawal and you need more commentary to feed your political addiction, perhaps a documentary will do the trick. Michael Moore may not have had the effect on the election he'd hoped for with his landmark film Fahrenheit 9/11, but he has set off a flood of films that go where the mainstream media would not dare.

• Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire, 2004. Fahrenheit 9/11 did a good job of debunking the administration's public excuses for invading Iraq, but it didn't probe deeper into the root causes. Hijacking Catastrophe takes us back to 1992, when a group of neoconservatives wrote a radical plan for spreading American influence after the Cold War. The Wolfowitz Doctrine, as it has become known, was a pipe dream then, but under President George W. Bush it has become American foreign policy. Iraq, Iran, and North Korea were named as primary targets more than a decade ago. The film details how this plan was successfully sold to the American public, along with the packaging of Bush as a Gary Cooper-esque war president. This chilling film contains graphic images from the war. More information can be found at www.mediaed.org.

• Fahrenhype 9/11, 2004. This is perhaps the most direct attack on Moore's film. Conservatives took solace in the film, but other than its title, Fahrenhype 9/11 largely missed its mark. The film did hammer Moore for taken creative license with some images -- for example, his creative cutting and pasting of a headline that ran in the Bloomington Pantagraph -- but it doesn't succeed in disputing the truth behind Fahrenheit 9/11. The bulk of the documentary is devoted to testimony by a handful of American soldiers who support the war. All that proves is that part of the military supports the war and part does not -- hardly a revelation. What can you say about a film that includes Ann Coulter and Zell Miller among its commentators?

• The Hunting of the President, 2004. Feel nostalgic for Bill Clinton and the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that sought to end his presidency? The Hunting of the President examines the 10-year-long investigation that began in Arkansas with a group of disgruntled local yokels and eventually mutated into Kenneth Starr's multimillion-dollar witch hunt. Directors Harry Thomason (co-producer of Designing Women) and Nickolas Perry lay out a detailed and effective case that a conspiracy did exist and that all of the numerous accusations against Clinton, save one, were disproved. Hunting is more entertaining than most documentaries because of its brisk pace and flashy editing style, at times reminiscent of Natural Born Killers'. The real hero of the story, Susan McDougal -- who chose prison rather than lie about Clinton -- provides some of the commentary.

• Bushisms, 2004. When politics becomes too serious, we need a laugh to provide relief. All politicians are victims of occasional slips of the tongue, but Bush's misstatements are legendary. Bushisms compiles some of his funniest quotes, then adds its own spin. The footage of Bush is amusing, but the accompanying commentary often takes the joke and runs it into the ground. Turning his misstatements into musical numbers is not only cruel but also tedious and ludicrous. The host, Brian Unger, was much funnier when he was a correspondent on Comedy Central'sDaily Show in its pre-Jon Stewart days. More information can be found at www.bushism.net.

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