10/27/06

Out Brand Is Crisis (2005)

Directed by Rachel Boynton

My summary: Documentary film director Boynton follows pollsters and strategists from Greenberg, Carville and Shrum as they advise Bolivian presidential candidate Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (aka "Goni) during the 2002 election. Wikipedia entry here.

I rarely watch documentary films because I am a fiction junkie whore. Keven loves them, however, and he's recently roped me into both this one and the Seven Up series (we will watch 35 Up this weekend).

(An aside: even documentaries prefer to start in media res. I really needed to pay more attention to this before I started Serenade.)

(Stan) Greenberg, (James) Carville and (Robert) Shrum is a US political consulting firm that attempts to export a particular brand of progressive American capitalism and democracy, all while earning a tidy sum for their globe-hopping expertise. Carville--that muthafuckin' snake-in-the-grass trainwreck who I happen to agree with on most occasions--obviously made for an entertaining hook. Why else watch a Bolivian election documentary from an unknown director? And he certainly did his part, adding his own particular perspective to the proceedings.

GCS Pollster Jeremy Rosner, however, was real star of the film. A dead ringer for SNL's Seth Meyer, Rosner could not have had a happy life at home because he spent just about the entire political campaign in Bolivia. He came across as incredibly intelligent, sympathetic, focused, concerned, obsessed, and strangely detached in that special way that only market researchers can be.

Much like Keven when he was working for Philip Morris this past summer, he had his eye on the prize--in this case, getting Goni elected. What? All my hard work is for a cigarette manufacturer? What? Goni is an ineffective, arrogant old man who consistently refuses to acknowledge the concerns of the lowest classes? The process of researching and winning the campaign consumed Rosner, to the point where the consequences of all his good efforts came as a disappointing surprise to him.

Rosner become more and more frustrated as the film continued. His strategies paid off, true, but the resulting chaos and deadly riots left him contemplative. Happy with compartmentalizing information into chunks of consumable data, he could neither control nor comprehend the irrational reactions of a frustrated nation or a candidate who simply would not heed his well-researched suggestions.

And then there was Carville, comparing election day to intercourse. Cajun asswipe. But he sure is entertaining.

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