Tuesday, December 25, 2007

AN UNREASONABLE MAN

AN UNREASONABLE MAN is a documentary about Ralph Nader.

It's hard to even write the word Nader without becoming overwhelmed with emotion. My wife and I were active in the 2000 election and it was painfully disheartening when Nader refused to pull out of the election, even though it was obvious that he was going to force a close race into a possible loss for the Democrats. With 7 years of hindsight, one could only imagine what would - and would not - have happened if Nader had dropped out and Gore had won. Perhaps no war, no Patriot Act, and no erosion of human rights here in our own country.

So I was a little afraid to watch the film. However, they approached the issue in the first few minutes as though they were going to spend the next 120 minutes haranguing Nader, which made me feel better about watching it.

Then they did something very smart; they spent an hour talking about Nader's accomplishments in the 60s and 70s. I knew all of it; I lived through much of it, yet I had forced it out of my mind with the sheer hatred I had built up for the man between 2000 and 2004. And throughout the hour, my opinion of the man slowly changed. Suddenly I began to feel sorry for him. Here's a guy who spent more than 30 years of his life doing amazing things for our country. So much of what we take for granted in our lives was started by him and his small core of followers in the 60s. And now it's very likely that he will be remembered for only one thing. Making Bush our president. Twice.

The film continues to humanize him by talking about his New England upbringing, and his family's involvement in local politics, very similar to my own.

Then suddenly the film leaps forward in time from the election of Reagan to the 2000 election, a leap of 20 years. It's a strange edit, but they spend a lot of time going into the election and how Nader botched things for America. There is a lengthy but very well-edited sequence intercutting his defenders with his detractors. Both sides are so overcome with emotion that neither really sounds intelligent in the argument.

This is definitely a documentary worth seeing, regardless of what your opinion of the man is or was. It is very thorough (almost to a fault, the running time feels long) and although the majority of the film canonizes his past, the important parts criticize his current involvement in politics.
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