Saturday, October 11, 2008


This was a fascinating documentary about Crawford Texas. Of course none of us would have ever heard of it had President Bush not moved there at the start of his 2000 campaign. Contrary to what you may think, the movie is not about him or his politics, but about his impact on the town. It covers both the good, and bad, the short term, and the long term.

First time director, David Modigliani, does an admirable job of being bias out of the movie. I suspect he leaned somewhat liberal, but the movie stayed almost completely neutral. It featured interviews with people from all political affiliations, and age groups. Some loved the presence of Bush, and some hated it. Some loved his policies, and some hated them. The one thing that bonded all of the interviewees together, however, was the profound impact their new neighbor had on them.

The movie primarily dealt with how the town coped with being in the political center ring. Crawford had to manage an invasion from tens of thousands of demonstrators and members of the media. This led to an economic boom, but also led to conflict. The business that managed to spring up on account of the tourism, eventually sank, in no small part to the press painting the town as one-horse, Podunk, illiterate, gun-toting, backwater. Little was known about the liberal newspaper headquartered there, or even the neo-anarchist peace-house. Crawford is indeed as diverse as the rest of the country. But all we ever saw was the same shot on all the television channels of a rundown shack and a bale of straw claiming to be on the outskirts of Bush's ranch. In one humerus interview, one of the residents realizes that this common shot was not on Bush's ranch, but of a tool shed behind Crawford high-school.

Some of the more interesting interviews dealt with salt of the earth funny anecdotes, including one elderly man who slipped in behind Bush's motorcade in his pickup truck and enjoyed the benefits of having the road cleared for him. Whether it's true or not, he had a grand time telling it, and I had a grand time listening to it. Another interview dealt with people contemplating why Bush decided to move to the 700 population town of Crawford in the first place. The common conclusion was that it was not his doing, but his campaign's, in an effort to paint a true small town, working man image of the president.

The movie does delve into politics a bit. There's quite a bit of coverage of the protesters on both sides of the war, but it never takes sides. In fact, the townspeople basically said "we don't care what you believe, we just want you out of here." Once the movie strayed from the people of the town, and ventured into more politically driven content, I started to fade a little. Fortunately, there was not much of that. The movie primarily stayed focused on the people, from the young students who were learning to be politically active, to the preacher who wanted nothing more than for Bush to attend his church (and spout some crazy talk about the end of days).

I suppose the purpose of this was just to explore the idea that there is much more than what we see. Crawford is more diverse and complex than we would ever be allowed to realize. to paraphrase what one interviewer said "a couple years ago, if you asked where Crawford was, we'd say it's 50 miles outside of Waco. Now when you ask where Waco is, we say it's 50 miles from Crawford."


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