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Late in 2006, President Jimmy Carter tours the U.S. promoting his provocative "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." Demme's camera follows Carter from city to city, home to Plains (population 635), visiting a Habitat for Humanity site in New Orleans, and talking on radio and TV with Teri Gross, Charlie Rose, Diane Rehm, Jay Leno, Larry King, Wolf Blitzer, Tavis Smiley, and Al Jazeera and Israeli pundits, discussing Palestine's plight and the policies of Israel. Critics speak as well. Between events, Carter talks about Camp David, recent travels, being married, speaking Spanish, and wisdom he learned from Rachel Clark, his nanny. A montage of speeches, awards, and travels ends the film.Written by
The film's Director's Statement by its director Jonathan Demme reads: "I have always held President Carter [Jimmy Carter] in high esteem, so I leapt at the opportunity to do a documentary portrait of him. I chose the book tour of Palestine Peace Not Apartheid as the backbone of the documentary before reading the book. I knew that with the kind of subject matter promised by the title, there would probably be a lot of fireworks on that journey. I love how his un-self-censored behavior and attitudes help reveal how authentic and deep President Carter's faith-based motivation really is - 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 super-sensitive yet bold, feisty and obstinate he can be at times - and that he reveals how a devoted, adoring husband like him fits so organically with the fellow who "loves the ladies." Every time I see this film, President Carter makes me believe that - as frightening and appalling as so many things are in the world today - that there is nevertheless a very real possibility for peace and better lives for future generations if we strive to somehow get along and if we aspire to defining the upside of being human." See more »
"Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains" is not a biography of the 39th President of the United States; nor is it a chronicle of his time as President, or even of his work with Habitat for Humanities, though both are touched upon in the course of the film. Rather it is a documentary account of a national book tour Carter conducted in late 2006 to promote his controversial and provocatively entitled tome, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." Carter basically gives two reasons why he felt compelled to write the book: 1) the fact that there had been no peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the then- five or six years of the Bush administration, and 2) what he sees as the unfair treatment of the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Anyone daring (or foolish) enough to venture into this minefield of a topic risks detonating intense passions on both sides of the conflict, but Carter's history and reputation as a peacemaker between the two aggrieved parties would appear to give him some cover on the issue. Well, not exactly, for we see many, mostly pro-Israeli groups and individuals, protesting and challenging him as he travels around the country providing interviews on this hyper-sensitive subject.
As a movie, "Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains" is no more than serviceable, even though it comes with an impressive pedigree, namely Jonathan Demme for a director. It is obviously sympathetic to Carter's position and it nicely illustrates the basic decency and humanity of a man who has hit the pinnacle of power yet still manages to remain true to the small town values of humility and service on which he was raised. But it's also unimaginative and redundant and probably isn't going to do much to assuage the concerns of those who hold opposing views to his.
It's worth seeing for its historical significance though.
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