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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 2007 production notes declared: "Carter Center Celebrates 25th Anniversary". They continued: "ATLANTA - The Carter Center, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn [Rosalynn Carter], is celebrating 25 years of progress in advancing peace, health, and hope worldwide. The Center works to secure a broad range of human rights as the foundation for peace and development, helping individuals and communities in more than 70 nations obtain the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to improve their own lives. 'Self-governance, freedom from political persecution, adequate food, and access to health care-these rights give people self-respect, human dignity, and hope for the future,' says President Carter. 'They are essential to creating a world at peace.' The Carter Center was started as a place where the former president and first lady could continue working on issues important to them after they left the White House. Today, the Carters lead a permanent staff of 160 working with world leaders and people at the grass roots in many of the poorest nations." 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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