The F Word (2005)
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The pretext for covering the demonstrators, both real ones and actors in cameos playing New Yorkers, is Josh Hamilton as a DJ whose low power community radio station is being shut down due to FCC fines for inappropriate language, sort of an update of the old Mike Agranoff folk opus "The Ballad About the Sandman" about a rebellious DJ's last show, but here he takes it to the streets. (The real New Yorkers are quizzical because the fictional station's call letters start with "K" whereas East Coast radio stations start with "W", so I'm not sure why writer/director Jed Weintrob chose that additional artifice.)
Hamilton is very engaging and makes a genuine effort to involve protesters and curious passers-by in substantive debate and conversation as he hikes from downtown to a respite with the oblivious sunbathers in Central Park and back down to the convention site in midtown. He really does try to find Republicans or at least be a devil's advocate in discussions to try to be fair. Demonstrators dressed almost ridiculously theatrically prove to be articulately heartfelt.
He is at some of the same rallies as the filmmakers of "Conventioneers" so I expected the actors from that movie to show up in this one, but Weintrob does let the real thing come through, especially the march of the coffins representing those killed in Iraq, and this film covers a colorful demonstration in front of Fox News headquarters that the other film missed (maybe it happened while the other filmmakers were under arrest).
The closing warnings about the threats to free speech of the Patriot Act are even closer to coming true.
I expect the distribution for this film will be limited to meetings of liberal organizations.
That's a shame, because while it's definitely a political film, it's also good film-making.
I don't disagree with the previous reviewer's comments, but I want to add how fresh this film is despite its quickly-revealed perspective on an event from six years ago.
The mix of real-life footage with acting is sharp and engaging: several of the night scenes blend the two especially well, rewarding the viewer for close attention.
And the character of Hamilton fits perfectly in this vein. He's Bob Newhart-esquire as a calm presence amid lunacy. I don't mean to imply that he's similar in personality, or that the film carries a light-comedy feel: it doesn't (though it does have laugh-out-loud moments, and others of uncomfortable chuckling). But Hamilton gives the film a center while allowing attention to focus on what goes on around him. It's a perfect choice for an intelligent, surprising film.
Jed Weintrob gives it all away when he has his main character ask how the Republicans would dare show their faces in the most liberal city in the country. You get the idea that he's deeply disappointed now that Obama hasn't built concentration camps to put conservatives in, now that the United States is run by the man most influenced by Weintrob's own brand of leftism of any US President in history.
All Americans ought to watch "The F Word" in Civics class for the same reason the Army used to make recruits watch "training films" - to acquaint everyone with exactly how bigoted and violent liberals really are.
By writing a movie for his co-religionists, Jed Weintrob has also exposed their intolerance and exclusivity to everyone else.
Future generations will regard this movie as a classic of the art of propaganda, out-classing "Triumph of the Will" in its ability to manipulate the weak-minded.
Perhaps a better title for this turkey would be "Jedi Mind Tricks."
This movie says that it documents the protests outside the Republican National Convention in Fall 2004. So much for truth in advertising.
Although "Joe Pace" (played with earnest - no, rabid - outrage by Josh Hamilton) does find some Republicans to speak to, he doesn't even pretend to interview them. Hamilton's character just makes the same statements with his questions the leftists made with their obscenities and violence in the streets.
The surreality comes in as left-wing protesters begin hitting New York policemen and Pace is crouching in the foreground saying "things are really getting tense with the cops here." Not the protesters, who are HITTING the cops, but the cops, who are doing their jobs.
Yeah, that's a documentary. 10 points for style, minus 250,000 for objectivity.
Weintrob's clever work with camera angles, cuts and editing show his intention to make propaganda early in the film. "The F Word," more than anything else, is a textbook on how to slant the facts and tell lies with film.
"The F Word" is slick propaganda, a post-modern version of "Triumph of the Will." As such, it merits study because this is the 21st century version of how to lie with a camera and a microphone.
You trot out the calm, aesthetic camera effects and soundtrack when you want your audience to identify with interviewees; then go to black and white when you want to show people with whom you disagree in a bad light, and posterize when you want to confuse your viewers (as with the disjointed-appearing Walt Whitman-quoting guy in Central Park near the middle of the film).
"Strange day... is anybody listening? Is anybody listening?" central character "Joe Pace" intones, as he strolls down Central Park not listening to anything but the sound of his own voice. The intelligent viewer cringes, expecting him to drop trou at some point and pleasure himself to the sound of his own verbal brilliance.
The central character then muses about the importance of people listening to each other when the folks with whom he most obviously sympathizes are talking non-stop to themselves and listening very little, to anyone else.
After half an hour of self-righteous talk therapy in the streets, Pace changes roles, has a bystander interview him, and delivers a nasty sound bite about how horrible it is that the Republican Party DARES to have their convention 'in one of the most liberal cities in America.'
This is the ONE truthful moment in "The F Word," when Jed Weintrob's mask of objectivity slips and he shows us that he'd cheerfully confine anyone who doesn't agree with his politics to a concentration camp. No one's allowed to walk around New York unless they've passed a political litmus test given by Jed Weintrob.
Nobody's too paranoid or obnoxious to be given a sympathetic ear by Jed Weintrob's faux journalist "Joe Pace" as long as they're rabidly leftist.
Even the guy from the "New York Peace and Justice Radio Show" who goes on and on about how the NYPD are computer-analyzing the videotapes they're making of the crowd is presented as a valid voice - the ironic wink from Weintrob's character which would have humanized him AND the left-wing head cases surrounding him is curiously absent from a movie preening itself as witty and profound.
This mockumentary ends with a little rock ballad that helps it earn its title - one of the protesters earnestly shouts just before "The F Word's" end credits that the 1960's comedian Lenny Bruce once said "You take away the right to say F---, then you take away the right to say 'F- - you' to the government."
Now, I'M exercising my Constitutional right to tell the director and cast:
"Guys, you f---ed up.
A documentary should tell BOTH sides of the story. If you don't want to do that, be honest with your audience and call it a 'political commercial' - George Soros is rich enough to air it in every major TV market in America.
Your movie sucks out loud."
This film DOES succeed in comparing and contrasting what real assholes behave like at political protest meetings, compared to the left-wing media's whipping boys, the Tea Party (who are almost uniformly good mannered, pick up their trash AND everyone else's, and don't hit anyone, including the cops).
I can't wait for Weintrob to follow this up with a movie-length ad for Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Oakland/Occupy Any Place but Mom's Basement.
I'm sure that whatever ACORN is calling themselves these days has lied to enough members of the New York teachers' union to be able to hire Weintrob and his production company.
I was moderately impressed with the willingness of The F Word to include other political fields of thought in its discussion. At one point a journalist, republican and former Marine arrives on scene and tours part of Manhattan with the lead character. His view is fairly simple. Most of these protesters are here because disliking Bush is popular. It is easier to have an emotional investment in something than an intellectual one (ask any sports fan). As another minor character reminds us, it is not likely many of them have a nuanced understanding of things like foreign policy.
I did not appreciate the Waking Life-style digression of the park dream sequence. It felt too digressive.
The various 'We Hate Bush' posters and sentiments flood the screen as often as "Yankees Suck" shirts flood the Red Sox documentary. This is to be expected of a film about protesters of the RNC, but there seems to be little attempt on the part of the filmmakers to explore the specific political positions of these people, and so we are left with the sense that the majority of them are passionate lemmings. This was possibly the intent of the creators, but I am uncertain. Unfortunately, personal politics, like the home team mentality, tends to skew ones interpretation of things, and The F Word makes little attempt to clarify anything. Which is why I give it a 7/10.