Jimmy Carter Man From Plains

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The ViewDunedin Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/08/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 120 mins

Enjoyable documentary that presents a portrait of a fascinating man, but it's a shame Demme doesn't go deeper into Carter's presidency.

What's it all about?
Jonathan Demme's documentary accompanies 83-year-old former president Jimmy Carter as he embarks on an epic book tour to promote his controversial new book, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid. Carter admits that he chose that provocative title to incite debate, but even he concedes that it might have backfired a bit, as media pundits line up to take him to task over it and Jewish groups stage protests at his various book-signings.

However, Carter calmly confronts every one of his antagonists, never losing his temper, even when it's clear that his interviewers haven't actually read his book (most of them just leap onto the use of the word apartheid, which is supported by its definition, if not its associations). In addition, we see him attend a family barbecue, sit in on a Carter Center meeting and even help build houses in post-Katrina New Orleans, as part of his volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity.

The Good
It's impossible to see this film without being inspired and deeply moved by Jimmy Carter, both as an individual and a human being. It's also impossible to see the film without being profoundly depressed by the US media, who are only interested in soundbites and controversy, rather than confronting the much more complex issue at hand.

Surprisingly, it's the smaller moments of the film that are the most moving, such as the people who line up to offer their profound thanks at his book-signings – these include Palestinians, people who've been moved by his charity work and even one of the hostages from the Iran Hostage Crisis.

The Bad
The only problem is that the focus on the book tour eventually becomes tiresome and you wish Demme had delved into Carter's actual presidency – instead, we get some terrific footage of him brokering the famous Camp David handshake but precious little else.

Worth seeing?
Jimmy Carter Man From Plains is a genuinely inspiring, well-made documentary that is well worth seeking out.

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Jimmy Carter Man From Plains
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