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article imageReview: 'Our Nixon' won't steal your vote Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 27, 2013 in Entertainment
'Our Nixon' pieces together an intimate and unique film record that captures all aspects of the Nixon era with novice enthusiasm.
Most people remain anonymous until something puts them in the spotlight, and then that's all anyone wants to talk about. Richard Nixon must have thought the American presidency would be his stamp on society. But when most people hear his name, they associate it with disgrace; they think of Watergate. In Our Nixon, documentarians use archival footage to paint a portrait of the man before the scandal.
More than 500 reels of Super 8 film were confiscated during the investigation into the wiretapping of the democratic headquarters during the 1973 presidential election. It sat in an FBI vault for 40 years. Nixon was inaugurated as U.S. president in 1969 and again in 1973. He was the first American leader to visit China and he ended the Vietnam war. When senior members of his staff were tried and convicted of sabotaging the election, Nixon resigned and was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford, one month later.
In addition to the film footage, there's numerous voice conversations played over the images and other archival interviews with three of Nixon's closest advisors: Special Assistant Dwight Chapin, Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and Domestic Affairs Advisor John Ehrlichman. The "our" in the title is not just referring to the population to which he was beholden, but to the man known only to those closest to him. The Nixon in these recordings is not always the man who led a nation; sometimes he's just a regular guy who curses, jokes and pauses a lot when he speaks. In short, he was generally not very compelling - and consequently neither is this section of the documentary.
But it would have been indefensible to not also portray the incident that ended his career. So the latter half of the film addresses the period surrounding Watergate. The accusations, denial and scapegoating is shown from behind the curtain, complete with Nixon's private exchanges.
The intertitles provide context to the footage, but the voices of political or historical analysts are missing from the picture. It's interesting to see and hear the raw recordings, but many may require further context to fully appreciate what is presented.
Our Nixon is screening during Hot Docs, the largest documentary film festival in North America, which runs April 25 to May 5 in Toronto.
More about Our Nixon, Richard nixon, Hot docs, Documentary, Watergate
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