Comin’ apart at every nail
A new film looks at one small town caught in the maelstrom of George W. Bush
Crawford Directed by David Modigliani. Edited by Matt Naylor. Cinematography by Deborah Eve Lewis, Cary McClelland, Ryan Pavelchik and Mr. Modigliani. Original music by David Rice. 75 minutes. Released in 2008.
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Film review by Ray Young
is a smart and absorbing documentary about the changes within the small Texas town George W. Bush moved to while running for President in 2000. No one since Richard Nixon has divided the American people as sharply, and Bush extended his bulldozing effect to neighbors he never knew in a remote corner far beyond his station. Director David Modigliani, here making his feature debut, captures roughly six years’ worth of the heat and heartbreak in Crawford in the President’s chaotic wake.
The town motto, “Nobody big, nobody small, everybody same,” initially applied to its seven-hundred-five (705) residents, but Mr. Bush, polarizing entity that he is, blew that humble maxim into orbit. (Would another grand old Republican, Sen. Joe McCarthy, have interpreted those words as a tenet of communism?) Modigliani interviews the modest, unprivileged locals—farmers, cowboys, schoolteachers, small business owners, waitresses, students—to find them woozy and star struck at first …although a handful saw through the Good Ol’ Boy veneer G.W. was employing to appease the ‘common’ voter.
“There’s nothing plastic about it,” one retailer says of a very plastic G.W. Bush talking doll. The proprietor of a pro-Bush souvenir store, she’s referring to the gung-ho diatribes it spouts with the pull of a string. Bush’s tumble from popularity in his bleak second term, however, sent her packing her wares and closing up shop. “I know how to open a store,” she says with a tear, “but I don’t know how to close one.” Yet her devotion to the President, the war and the party stands firm.
She represents—or, at this point, represented—the majority opinion in a town that lost it’s only newspaper, The Lone Star Iconoclast
, when their gutsy staff endorsed John Kerry in 2004. With the lies of Iraq too clear to dismiss, editor W. Leon Smith recalls the ruinous fallout of the endorsement, plummeting sales and advertising losses that drove the paper to its present situation online
, Modigliani captures the bucolic backwater as a microcosm of a nation clashing over principles and concepts. Its conservative right embracing war, its liberal left promoting dialog, Crawford unwillingly swept aside its tumbleweeds to host a global media frenzy. Modigliani shows the growing rift among neighbors who were once tolerant and friendly in a place where everyone knew each other by name. The arrival of camera crews and satellite trucks, busloads of outsiders and protestors (including protestors protesting against protestors), and the eye of the world upon them, one-horse Crawford, like much of America, fell hard from grace.
As weapons of mass destruction were nowhere to be found, Bush backpedaled and vowed to liberate Iraq from its dictator, a sweeping and deadly agenda never mentioned in his initial election campaign. Some in Crawford, such as the schoolteacher who may have felt too deeply for her students and vocation, set out to analyze and discuss the President’s confusing rationale. All around, however, the invasion was generally applauded by frightened locals loath to admit they’d been duped. In these and other instances, Crawford lays open a barely ‘United’ States at a time when unity should be its primary concern.