5. The Reagan Show
The subject of Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez’s semi-experimental documentary is President Ronald Reagan, but it’s not the story of his campaign, reelection, governorship, or legacy. Instead, they peer into the lenses through which we did and did not see that office for eight years, dismissing talking heads and summarizing narration for a brilliantly edited multi-media montage of newscasts, TV addresses, and official White House videos. But “official” doesn’t tell the whole story – more often than not, we’re seeing pre-roll and outtakes, making this the political documentary counterpart to bootleg records, where the most telling moments are often the studio chatter. Surveying the Reagan years through that specific prism underscores the degree to which this administration manipulated images to stage their message, to an extent unprecedented at that time, but S.O.P. these days. Or, to put it another way, shudder along with Peter Jennings as he contemplates how “politicians who come after him are going to have to succeed first on television.” Uh huh.