Arts Alliance America // 2007 // 76 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // December 2nd, 2007
Vote for Granny D!
Doris Haddock is alive and kicking! She's 97 years old, and the great-grandmother of 16. She's in a better shape than many 50-year-olds, and she loves to walk across her country for the sake of politics. In 2004, she even competed for a vacant position in the U.S. Senate, and ran a campaign on a shoestring. Marlo Poras' intriguing documentary Run Granny Run focuses on Haddock's successful years as a devoted political activist, and tells the story of a true patriot who wouldn't let anything get in her way.
After her husband and her best friend passed away in the early '90s, Doris "Granny D" Haddock needed a reason to live. So at the age of 91, she put on her sneakers and embarked on a 3,200-mile walk from California to New Hampshire to promote campaign finance reform. Since then, Granny D has been leading a busy life as a political activist who enjoys traveling the country to support the Democratic Party and encourage people to vote.
The highlight of Granny D's career as a political figure took place in 2004, when the sudden exit of the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire left a 24-hour frame to fill the vacant spot. Even though she faced only a slim chance to succeed, Haddock decided to give it a shot and run for senate. And whether you believe it or not, she was 94 back then. Assisted by her son Jim and campaign strategist Dennis Burke, Granny D traveled the state to deliver her message and get the people to vote for her in the battle against Judd Gregg, her tough opponent.
The race is on, and Granny D is on fire!
Run Granny Run is a truly inspirational documentary. It's the story of an exceptional woman who instead of giving up on life after suffering from several tragedies, pulls herself together and devotes all her strength to her country. It's also the story of a woman who, at her age, has to stand up and fight hard to be taken seriously. I know it's hard to believe, but Haddock led a campaign on barely $200,000, while her opponent gathered $2.8 million. Senator Gregg relied on special interest money and big corporations to fund his campaign, but Granny D decided to walk across the state and earn all her money by herself. She truly is one of those rare personalities to immediately connect with her audience.
Following Haddock on her campaign is a pure pleasure. She's 94 years old, has a specific goal, and struggles to get people to take her seriously. And yet she never gives up or doubts her efforts. Every day, she laces up her tennis shoes, puts on her favorite hat, boards her colorful truck, and sets out to pursue her good cause. Her son is always on her side, drives her around the state, and advises her when necessary. But the final decisions are hers, always. Granny D is a great fighter and a great athlete. She never blows smoke, and always tells it like it is. She has nothing to loose and her comments or speeches couldn't be more direct. "I am not in the habit of loosing," she tells us. And how could she be? Director Poras has done an excellent job at structuring her documentary, which chronologically follows Haddock's political career, but also opens up enough time to let the viewers deep inside the mind of Granny D.
Run Granny Run offers every interesting aspect about her and her campaign, even problematic situations. For instance, Haddock's camp has no money for TV ads, and her strategists face many troubles because they think no senator will support somebody who can't win. Indeed, the film never gives us much hope that she can actually win. That's just not the point. Poras didn't make this film to lay out any chances for a win, but she did it to honor Granny D's passions, courage and commitment.
The film, however, does not solely focus on her political life. Interestingly, and although it runs for only 76 minutes, this captivating documentary is also a true homage to Doris Haddock, the human being. It is a wonderful portrait, and carefully explores what drives her character and what struggles she's been facing in her life. The film takes a quite emotional and sincere spin when she opens her heart to her viewers and explains how guilty she feels about focusing more on politics than her daughter, who suffers form Alzheimer's.
The real suspense of the film erupts toward the ending, in the days leading up to Granny D's televised debate against Judd Gregg. When we meet her first she's not afraid of anything, but the night before her big speech on the battlefield, she sure gets nervous. Here, the film offers some compelling scenes, including original footage from the debate that leaves us breathless. It's documentary filmmaking at its best, with no input from the director, and plenty of space for the main characters to speak for themselves.
In short, Run Granny Run is everything a solid documentary ought to be: fun, inspiring, informative, and compelling, all packed in a reasonable running time. I honestly wouldn't have minded watching an extra 15 to 20 minutes, but maybe 76 minutes is just enough to chronicle the most important events from the start of the campaign to the crucial election day. It's a nail-biting experience all throughout.
Most of the scenes take place in Haddock's house, or outside on the road, with Haddock and her team sharing interesting conversations. The audio transfer works fine and every one is easily understandable. The movie was produced on a low budget so the filmmakers used simple and inexpensive equipment during the shooting, but the video looks sharp enough for a full frame transfer. With better lightening it would certainly look a little better, but this is not a big issue.
The special features section on the DVD only has two extras in store for you, but that's more than enough. There's an interesting 15-minute Q&A session with Doris Haddock, her son, and director Marlo Poras at the SXSW Film Festival from March 2007, when the film celebrated its premier screening. Most questions come directly from the audience, but they are all relevant enough to the movie. Whatever you would like to know after watching the film is certainly answered during this informative session, which is also why I think a filmmaker's commentary is unnecessary. The film is self-explanatory and clear enough.
The disc also includes four deleted scenes. I often find deleted scenes on DVDs to be mediocre and boring, but these are of substantial interest. In fact, some of them could have even been kept in the final cut, especially the one in which Granny D drops a letter for Dick Cheney by Judd Gregg's office and later talks to the press about what she thinks about her opponent. There's another hilarious one in which Haddock conquers the Web and learns how to dance on YouTube. You see, this lady is up for anything. Long live Granny D!
Run Granny Run is a documentary with wonderful humor, but it's also quite serious. I have to admit I absolutely wanted Granny D to win the whole thing after I watched her put all her efforts into this extraordinary campaign, but the film sticks to reality and is quite honest about that fact that, sometimes, it's not all about winning. Most importantly, Haddock has become a true inspiration to many people, and the film shows this beautifully. Yep, I definitely would have voted for her too.
Not guilty. Now go vote dammit!
Review content copyright © 2007 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Arts Alliance America
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 76 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Q&A Sessions with Granny D and Director Marlo Poras
* Official Site