Friday, August 20, 2004

Errol Morris Gets Political

Philip Gourevitch in the New Yorker on another Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker for Kerry:

"Errol Morris, whose inventive and stylized documentaries include 'The Thin Blue Line,' 'Mr. Death,' [Note to the New Yorker's famous fact-checkers: the title is acutally 'Dr. Death'] and an Oscar-winning portrait of Robert McNamara, 'The Fog of War,' is also a prodigious director of TV commercials—the ultimate message movies. It’s a lucrative sideline in which he takes considerable pleasure. He’s made successful advertisements for such brands as Miller High Life, Adidas, and Volkswagen, although some of his favorite spots—one for Quaker Oats, for example, which shows an orangutan spooning porridge into his mouth, then setting aside the utensil and blissfully plunging his face into the breakfast bowl—have never been broadcast. A few years ago, Morris directed Apple’s enormously popular 'Switch' campaign, which consisted of vignettes about real people who had abandoned PCs for Macs. And, while he has never before been involved in electoral politics, this year Morris decided to make a series of documentary political ads featuring Republican switchers, people who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and will vote for John Kerry this time around.

"Morris, who lives in the echt-liberal enclave of Cambridge, Massachusetts, didn’t actually know any such people, but, he told me, 'the pollsters said they’re out there—in America—and I’m really interested in what they have to say.' After all, the outcome of the election is expected to hinge largely on swing voters, and, Morris said, 'these ads are a way of talking to them. It isn’t pollsters talking through actors. It isn’t longtime Democrats talking to themselves. It isn’t longtime Democrats hectoring Republicans. It’s thoughtful Republicans—many of whom have decided to remain Republican—saying it’s not us who are abandoning Bush; he’s abandoned us, abandoned the Republican Party we’ve supported all these years. That is a very powerful message.""

I met Morris several years ago, and he was kind enough to tell me at that time that he thought my film, Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?, "was the best documentary I have ever seen."

So what can I say, other than read the New Yorker story?