When Judge Ian Visser gets elected Mayor of New York City, he's finally going to do something about those CHUDs.
"It should be so, and it will be so."—Rudolph Giuliani
Giuliani Time is my third "one-sider" review in as many weeks. By "one-sider," I mean the increasingly popular form of documentary that assumes an entrenched position and gives little (if any) weight to opposing evidence. I've recently reviewed The Bush Crimes Commission Hearings and The War on the War on Drugs, both of which have no interest in examining an issue from more than one side, and present only that evidence considered necessary to prove their own arguments. Blame it on an increasingly combative social and political climate if you like, but this form of documentary is quickly becoming commonplace.
Continuing this trend is Giuliani Time, a documentary arguing that what most of the world knows about the famous mayor is only part of the story. Giuliani Time suggests that the pre-9/11 Giuliani was an authoritative strongman more interested in protecting wealthy New Yorkers and corporate interests than serving the public, and that Giuliani was ending his political career by late 2001, beset by health problems and a messy public divorce. If not for the terrorist attacks on New York, he would be just another ex-mayor drawing a pension, instead of the front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. It's an intriguing suggestion, but the question remains: is the film accurate, or is it just another smear job of a popular conservative figure?
A mix of existing footage and new interviews, Giuliani Time traces its subjects roots from a childhood in Brooklyn to the Manhattan prosecutor's office, and ultimately to the post of mayor for America's biggest city. Interviews are conducted with friends, editors, attorneys, politicians, former administration members, and even Donald Trump (who, you guessed it, loves Giuliani). Given the nature of the film, the majority of these interviews paint Giuliani in a negative light. Accusations run the gamut from abuse of the homeless, squeegee men, vendors, and artists to Giuliani exploiting his position as a district attorney to allow mob-affiliated family members protection from prosecution.
Two things become apparent after watching Giuliani Time. First, Rudy Giuliani knew he wanted to be near the top of the political world from an early age. We see a Giuliani who resisted the counter-culture of the 1960s, allied himself with conservative Republican administrations, and constructed a "tough on crime" image from his earliest days as a prosecutor. Every action, position, and decision in his career appears to have been calculated to serve his ambitions and move him higher up the ladder of New York politics.
The second thing we learn is the New Yorkers were never really that keen on Giuliani. He lost the mayoral race in 1989, and subsequently made a hard move to the right to ally himself with conservative elements of the public service sector, including the police and fire department. In 1993, Giuliani became mayor with only 28% of the popular vote, getting himself re-elected in 1997 with even fewer votes. During that time, we see an increasingly cozy relationship developing with the police, one that made many nervous, especially after accusations that Giuliani provoked police supporters into a near-riot during a political rally.
Directed by Kevin Keating (director of photography on the classic doc Harlan County, USA), Giuliani Time is a well-made and assembled documentary. At 118 minutes Keating has a lot of room to investigate issues that would otherwise be glossed over in a film with a shorter run time. This serves the film well, since Keating is more interested in Giuliani's actions as mayor than the post-9/11 renaissance his career enjoyed. Keating also resists making blatant, obvious points, wisely letting film clips and Giuliani's own words support his arguments.
Kudos aside, Giuliani Time is not even close to being balanced. There is only a smattering of pro-Giuliani voices allowed to speak, and these few supporters do more harm than good defending his policies via their "let them eat cake" attitudes. Unlike most one-sided docs, however, this effort takes a far less vitriolic tone and may actually convince pro-Giuliani supporters that some of his policies waver from the typical law-and-order line into authoritarianism.
Like many recent documentaries, Giuliani Time has been shot on digital video, and looks great because of it. The widescreen image is clean and bright, and the existing footage used in the film is recent enough to still be in fine condition. The audio is clear and balanced, even though there isn't much here to give your speakers a work-out. But where's the bonus features? Aside from a trailer and some web links there are none to be found. This is the kind of film that would benefit from a commentary or extended clips from the subjects interviewed. It's unfortunate that a documentary of this timeliness gets the bare-bones treatment from Cinema Libre.
Whether to call Giuliani Time a "good" film depends on what you feel a documentary should deliver. If you believe a documentary should present two sides of argument, then Keating and his film are not successful. But as a one-sided opinion piece attempting to highlight as much negative material as possible, it works. I'm going to call Giuliani Time "not guilty," but the court warns other jurists that the defense in this case is under-represented.
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