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Case Number 14972: Small Claims Court

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The F Word

Genius Products // 2005 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // November 12th, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge Joel Pearce is voting for himself.

The Charge

Freedom, First Amendment, Fact, Fiction

The Case

The F Word has its heart in the right place, but the experience of watching it in 2008 is not only a disappointment, but also highlights the flaws in the original production.

The film follows indie radio host Joe Pace (Josh Hamilton) through the streets of New York, during the Republican convention in 2004. This is his last show, before the FCC shuts down the station for obscenity violation. This weekend in New York was also the home of one of the largest political protests in American history, and these protesters didn't get much media attention at the time. As he circulates, he talks to protesters and Republicans alike, listening to what they have to say about the political issues of the moment.

There's one major problem with this production: it's not a documentary. While I'm sure that independent radio programs get shut down by the FCC all the time, Joe Pace isn't a real radio host, and he's not interviewing people for a live radio program, he's collecting sound bites for a movie. Some of the people he interviews are real protesters present at the time, but others are played by actors: a couple are even recognizable faces like Sam Rockwell (Frost/Nixon).

This presents a few issues. For one, we don't know when we're seeing real people talking, and when we're watching scripted scenes written for the production. This makes us doubly aware of the manipulation of editing, and the manipulation of omission that goes into documentaries all the time. Could the production team not find enough protesters to say what they really wanted? Did they want to ensure that certain ideas and statements made it into the film? Either way, it makes the production half local news and half Richard Linklater-styled collection of strange encounters with interesting characters.

The other issue is of timing. If the big problem is that nobody is hearing about the protests during the Republican convention of 2004, a radio show that highlights this gap is a great idea. A film that comes out the following year and is finally released on DVD just in time for the next election four years later is significantly less useful. While a number of the issues are still relevant, it lacks the immediacy that the production needs to really resonate. The campaign between Bush and Kerry is quite different from the one between McCain and Obama—it is, in fact, being released at a time when the Bush administration will be gone, one way or another.

That's not to say the issue of free speech isn't important. It's as important now as it was four years ago, and the film does have some crucial statements to make. Had The F Word been a bit more honest with its methodology, I might even have recommended it.

The DVD itself is presented well for its low budget. The image looks good, if a bit washed out and fuzzy. The sound is also clear throughout, which is important. In terms of special features, we get a collection of extended sequences, as well as a commentary track by the production team. In the commentary, the team talks openly about the factual and fictional portions of the film, but doesn't consider that problematic.

Of course, The F Word is a film that will only end up preaching to the converted. It's another rallying cry for Democrats to get out and vote for change, while Republicans will shrug it off as more liberal propaganda. How will you feel about it? You can probably guess pretty accurately.

And that's about it. If you think this is a film for you, go for it. You can use it as an opportunity to vent your ire. If it sounds like something that you'd be offended by, you can be certain you will be.

Personally, I find The F Word guilty of distorting the truth—exactly what they accuse the conservative media industry of doing.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 60

Perp Profile

Studio: Genius Products
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary
• Deleted Scenes


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