TIFF 07 Review: Jimmy Carter Man From Plains

Jimmy Carter Man From Plains (Sony Pictures Classics, October 26, 2007-selected cities)
Dir. Jonathan Demme
Let me start right off the bat by saying that Jimmy Carter is a personal hero of mine. He is a deeply soulful, peaceful and intelligent man who manages to exist and flourish in this, the most complex and potentially dangerous of all possible worlds. Not only that, but he leads his life as an exemplar of modern man. How so? He has just tuned 83 years of age and is spending his birthday in the Sudan, trying to help end the crisis in Darfur. That’s what he does when he’s not helping run the not-for-profit Carter Center, leading sermons, writing books (21 and counting), building houses, monitoring elections and oh yeah, being married to one of the strongest, most interesting women of the last hundred years, his wife Rosalynn. He is a religious man whose faith inspires him to continue his good works both within and outside of the political arena. A steadfastly devout born again Christian, he firmly believes in the separation of church and state and in this sense is the very picture of integrity.
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All of this and more is on offer in Demme’s exceptional two-hour portrait of the man and his work, set amidst an extensive publicity tour for his book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” One of the more difficult times in Carter’s life, the storm of controversy generated by his choice of words in the book’s title did indeed do what president Carter hoped in terms of sparking debate and increased awareness of his endless quest for peace in the Middle East, but it also opened him up to some harsh criticisms. Critical response he’d faced before, but never had he been confronted with accusations of bigotry, anti-Semitism and plagiarism, admitting that “it hurt.” Through it all, Carter perseveres with an iron will, enless compassion for his fellow man and the conviction of his beliefs.
Given pretty much total access, Demme’s portrayal of this complex man gets up close and personal, whether it’s short phone calls back home to Rosalynn while on the tour, footage of the president’s early morning swims in hotel pools or his penchant for greeting each of his fellow passengers personally when he boards a commercial jet. “I love how his un-self-censored behavior and attitudes help reveal how authentic and deep President Carter’s faith-based motivation really is,” writes Demme in his director’s statement, continuing “and how terrifically complicated he is as a human being, with such an active sense of humor, an encyclopedic knowledge of a seeming endless array of subjects – and how supersensitive yet bold, feisty and obstinate he can be at times….”
Demme hit the nail right on the head and his film is an important and engrossing portrayal of an amazing American. Jimmy Carter is a true hero and a role model for the world.
Photo by Alex Cohn © 2007 Real Peace Productions, Inc. courtesy Sony Pictures Classics. All Rights Reserved.

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US hardcover: Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
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