With the Toronto International Film Festival now in full flower, and with a boatload of interesting new nonfiction films premiering there, we've decided to steal completely from GreenCine Daily and their most excellent festival coverage by trying to cover as many of the docs as possible, primarily in terms of reviews and features. Films will get their own posts and we will update as new items come in. As we said, stealing completely. So, with apologies in advance to David Hudson (who will, no doubt, do this far better than we), here's the first entry from Toronto, Jonathan Demme's Jimmy Carter documentary MAN FROM PLAINS, which debuts in Toronto on Monday.
Writes the Hollywood Reporter's Ray Bennett in a review from Venice:
"Winning the Nobel Peace Prize does not automatically visit sainthood upon the recipient as Tom Lehrer observed while noting that satire died the day Henry Kissinger became laureate, but it looks pretty good on Jimmy Carter.
That's the problem, however, with Jonathan Demme's blandly interesting new documentary on the former president from Georgia titled MAN FROM PLAINS.
The one-term White House occupant, former peanut farmer and nuclear physicist, sincere Christian, and full-time humanitarian is such a reasonable individual that the film has trouble drumming up controversy."
"Inside the 1,000-seat auditorium, dozens of seats were empty. But the audience gave Demme a huge round of applause as he entered.
The film, an intimate two-hour portrayal of the 39th president, garnered a warm, two-minute standing ovation at the end.
The film tracks Carter's promotion of his recent book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," and many questions at Demme's news conference focused on why Israel-Palestinian problems are not a larger issue in the United States.
Despite the serious nature of the film, at least a few moments sparked laughter."
Eric Kohn in the NY Press:
Eric Kohn in the NY Press:
"Carter basically comes across as sweet, reserved, and maybe a little naïve about the anger that his book stirred up among Zionists. Needless to say, he’s not the ideal candidate for a two hour hagiography, which is essentially what Demme has created."
Update Sunday September 9:
Ronnie Scheib at Variety:
"It is easy to underestimate the careful construction behind Jonathan Demme's peerless portrait of Jimmy Carter, as the former president occupies the frame so totally and unselfconsciously. Starting and ending in his home town in Georgia, "Man From Plains" follows Carter's tour for the most controversial of his 21 books, 2006's "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." Thanked and vilified in equal measure from coast to coast, Carter's belief that Israel's policies in the Occupied Territories are unjust and counterproductive remains steadfast. Complex like its subject, Sony-released docu may ride the Middle-East conflict into theaters, but the 39th president will keep it there."
Updates Monday September 10:
From longtime TIFF blogger Crunchy Squirrel:
"Deeply ordinary and unfocused, Demme's ode to Jimmy Carter gains force entirely for what it doesn't do. By showing a president who gives his all before, during and after his term, who tries to change the world for the better, he creates an excellent critique of the current administration and their failings. It's a little too reverent, but Carter wears through your defenses."
indieWIRE profiles Jimmy Carter's visit to Toronto:
"Amidst the frivolity of parties, red carpets, dinners and flashing cameras, the Toronto International Film Festival displayed its serious side today (Monday), ahead of the sixth anniversary of 9/11, with a visit from the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. The Carters were on hand to talk about Jonathan Demme's new doc, "Jimmy Carter Man from Plains" -- a triple award-winner at the recent Venice Film Festival this weekend -- that follows Carter during the period after last year's publishing of one of his most controversial books, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."
The AP's Dave Germain is there too:
""In the last year or so, I've spent more time with Jonathan than I have with Rosalynn," Carter told the audience. "He followed me around and we became close friends, and I learned to admire his abilities as a director. I've seen the film. It is, because of him, outstanding, not because of the leading actor in it.""