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The Hunting Of The President

narrator: Morgan Freeman

directors: Nickolas Perry, Harry Z. Thomason

86 minutes (15) 2004 widescreen ratio 16:9 20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Martin Drury
Adapted from the book by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, this documentary is narrated by Morgan Freeman, and it tells the story of a ten-year campaign to discredit Bill Clinton and ultimately bring down the US President. The British viewer will have trouble understanding the complexities of the American political and judicial systems and there's also a chance many viewers from the UK will fail to recognise the main players in the saga. Monica Lewinsky and Ken Starr rode the media junket across the world in search of fame and fortune, but minor figures such as Paula Jones and right-wing pundit Ann Coulter who appear in the film have limited fame or appeal beyond the insular media village of modern America.

To begin with, Morgan Freeman's narration injects false passion into every sentiment and the viewer is forced constantly to the edge of their seat as the mundane is dressed as the magnificent. In documentaries, the narration is the thread binding the remainder of the content together. In The Hunting Of The President, Freeman's narration quickly becomes distracting for the viewer and much of the testimony from interviewees in the documentary - which Freeman's narration told us would be fiery and emotionally raw - falls head first into tedium. The film constantly asks its audience to sympathise with Bill Clinton. In America, politics and personality are one. Elsewhere, the people have sharper tongues and prefer to bathe their politicians in a raw blast of fury then shield them with a warm blanket every time the detractors come to town.

Only once the human cost of the right wing's power games is sketched in celluloid, are the sympathies of the viewer engaged. Ken Starr rapidly looses his professional credibility as the activities of the Grand Jury set up to investigate Bill Clinton are exposed as the manic machinations of persons after political vengeance. The documentary succeeds in painting a picture of the dire consequences of mob rule in politics by interest groups with an axe to grind in place of a point of view. What's missing from this film is the Michael Moore factor. Ironic, when one considers that the reason why the film was steered away from the brash, abrasive narration of Michael Moore was to make sure people took this documentary to heart more than Fahrenheit 9/11. The Hunting Of The President is a walk in the past designed to examine what happened. The film asks nothing of its audience and it's a shame that the film failed to demand that the public learn from what took place during the attempted political assassination of President Bill Clinton.

The DVD release of a documentary is the perfect opportunity for those behind the movie to offer their public an assortment of extras and special features. The Hunting Of The President should have included background material on the Clinton presidency and the policies and activities of the Clinton administration. At the very least the special features should have included a short film about the rise of the right wing in American politics, culminating in the election of President George W. Bush in 2000. Instead, the film is allowed to speak for itself and all the viewers are offered is a brief audience with Bill Clinton, filmed after the US premiere of the movie. The Clinton speech is interesting and inspiring but hardly intoxicating. The film, like the Clinton presidency before it, ends on a duff and rather sombre note. As if looking back with tears in one's eyes is the only way forward for those on the political left in America.

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