Happy winter! This past weekend, we noted the arrival of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Here in Nebraska, the sun hung in the southern sky for a mere nine hours or so – and, though the 50-degree weather has helped, many have already begun counting the hours, minutes, and days until March 19, 2020, the first day of spring.
Between then and now, though, lots will go down: The Nebraska Legislature will convene Jan. 8; our next-door neighbors to the east will kick off the 2020 primary-caucus season Feb. 3; a month later, Super Tuesday will trim the primary field further. And then the Hollywood awards circuit cranks up. At some point, we’re almost certain to be hunkered down on a chilly evening, keeping warm by the light of the fire or the flatscreen TV. For that latter scenario, here are a half-dozen documentaries that you may find interesting on democracy, politics, and government. You may recall our Democracy’s Dozen from July, in which we shared our favorite movies for Independence Day, so maybe call this Democracy’s (Half) Dozen: Winter Documentary Edition.
“Examining the fiery, acerbic televised debates between William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal during the Republican and Democratic conventions in 1968, Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon’s The Best of Enemies provides a rich, extraordinarily fascinating account that’s sure to have many viewers’ minds constantly shuttling between then and now, noting how different certain things about politics and media were in that distant era, yet marveling at how directly those archaic realities led to many of our own.” – RogerEbert.com
2. Mitt (2013)
“Mitt is a rare and intimate account of one man’s quest for the presidency. Given unprecedented access by Mitt Romney and his family for six years, Mitt follows the former governor’s presidential aspirations, from Christmas 2006 to his initial run to become the Republican nominee in 2008 and through his Presidential concession speech in 2012. Director Greg Whiteley travels alongside the campaign through interactions with potential voters, preparations for the debates, personal moments with his family and concluding with final presidential election night results. Whatever side you’re on, see another side.” – Netflix
3. Get Me Roger Stone, 2017
“On the surface, this film is about Roger Stone, Trump’s former political adviser who left the campaign in 2015. But it’s about so much more — Trump’s rise to power, Washington’s political culture, and America’s pivot to a post-truth existence. Get Me Roger Stone features interviews with Stone himself, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, and many others. It offers a stunning look at how one man’s career helped create Trump, the politician.” –Business Insider
4. Nobody Speak, 2018
“This work draws a through-line from Hulk Hogan’s privacy lawsuit against Gawker to the journalistic challenges posed by the presidency of Donald Trump, with three overarching points. The first is that the Hogan case had far-ranging implications for the media’s ability to cover public figures. The $140M judgment against Gawker sets a precedent that the movie argues could snuff out significant reporting. The second is that the lawsuit, later revealed to have been bankrolled by billionaire Peter Thiel, represented a powerful figure secretly using wealth to stifle a voice he regarded as adversarial. The third is that the presidency of Trump, who makes a regular target of reporters, represents a threat to news organizations interested in pursuing the truth.” – The New York Times
5. I Voted?, 2016
“Jason Grant Smith takes us on a six-year journey into the heart of American democracy – the vote. What begins as an examination of a South Carolina U.S. Senate primary soon turns into an in-depth exploration of American election integrity. How do we know our votes count? The answer is both surprising and disturbing.” – Amazon
6. What Is Democracy?, 2019
“A smart doc that’s as earnest and scattered as the viewers likely to seek it out, Astra Taylor’s What Is Democracy? looks around at the world and realizes that even those of us on the right sides of things aren’t always sure what we’re fighting for. This is no civics lesson on gerrymandering and the electoral college, but a global musing on what human beings should expect from each other. Those seeking tidy answers should look elsewhere: Most of Taylor’s interviewees are honest enough not to even claim the questions are tidy.” – The Hollywood Reporter