Convention: Your 2008 Democratic Clusterfuck in Denver, Unplugged!


Turns out there are a lot of logistics involved in putting on a big show, according to this ever-circling, Gilbert and Sullivan–scored take on the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Orchestrated by nonfiction maven and filmmaker AJ Schnack (Kurt Cobain About a Son), the good-natured record dwells on the travails of affable convention organizers before coalescing around a stale received storyline (will there be trouble with protesters???) and coolly climaxing with Obama. Rationales for the underachieving result can be made—it’s Primary vérité scaled down for the average Joe? A mirror of our complacently mediated world where there is often no there there? A deadpan joke about a Democratic convention in Denver?—but the film’s frustrating treatment is actually more like the local reporter who is shown struggling to stay in the loop. Schnack assimilates footage from multiple filmmakers (including The Oath‘s Laura Poitras and A Lion in the House‘s Julia Reichert) and ends up too shy about ideas. There’s an implied strand linking the struggling (female) reporter, Hillary’s final graciousness, and Denver’s 1908 convention (accepting female delegates for the first time), but it never fully connects. Schnack does have a sense for the weird living museum of time-warped ideologies that is contemporary politics. This comes out in fertile segments about feuding protesters, centered on the old-school revivalist group Recreate 68 but spanning “Free Mumia” chants, millennial anarchist-wear, and scruffy undergrad activists who later will probably be political consultants.