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Three More Political Docs Prepare New York City for the RNC

Common people: This Ain't No Heartland
photo: Courtesy Pioneer Theater

This time the revolution will be televised, or at least captured on video and projected in theaters. The Fourth World War appropriates the language of Dubya's "War on Terror" ("a conflict without battlefields") for the ongoing war on humanity being waged by global capitalism. Comprising footage from six fronts (Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, South Africa, Palestine, Iraq) as well as recent protests in Quebec, Genoa, and New York, the doc, at a scant 75 minutes, shortchanges historical context. MTV-style montage, "poetic" voice-over, and on-screen keywords (empire, fear) give the film the slick, inspirational quality of a multi-media high school assembly (albeit one from a really progressive high school). More effective are the moments when images and sounds speak for themselves. The best sequence segues from Palestinians in mourning to children confronting Israeli tanks, before dissolving into a brief silent shot of the WTC collapse and footage of 9-11 memorials—an affirmation of shared humanity in defiance of nationalism.

One might expect some insight into nationalist propaganda from This Ain't No Heartland, which opens with a Goering quotation, but Austrian director Andreas Horvath's scattershot film is more interested in advancing the thesis that Midwesterners are all dumb hicks. Shot during the early months of the Iraq war, the doc consists mostly of interviews with rural heartlanders, who come across as ignorant, complacent, and racist. Horvath tips his hand by including a speech by noted man-of-the-common-people G. Gordon Liddy, as well as radio rants by a fundamentalist preacher, implying that such extremist voices are typical of Midwestern values.

Another interview-based doc, Paul Alexander's Brothers in Arms gives us John Kerry and five members of his Swift boat crew in their own words. The less-is-more approach to Kerry's war heroics (the incident that led to his Silver Star is covered only briefly) allows the crewmen to dominate. As for the candidate, like Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People, he's wisely content to remain a supporting character in his own life story.


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