I'm writing about an amazing movie, one of the most remarkable films I have ever experienced.
The effect is mind-expanding, and I believe many others in the large audience where I first saw it (at Pace University, as part of the Tribeca Film Festival) felt the same way.
Entitled The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear, it's actually a three-part BBC TV series, first shown in the UK right before the 2004 US presidential election.
From the big crowd and the strong reactions (sustained applause and cheering at the end, after three hours of rapt attention), I assumed it would get a theatrical release here and then be shown on television and released on DVD. But this may never happen — no American TV outlets have taken it, and since it uses lots of archival footage and music, the rights issues may keep it from ever being released on disc.
It's a deliberately, audaciously provocative piece, with a great deal of cheeky smart-alecky humor, and it will be very controversial in the US. Some will call it an outrageous pack of lies. Even those like myself who are blown away by the film's brilliance may question some of its methods and assertions. It is almost certainly guilty of over-simplification and overstatement and the occasional cheap shot.
But the powerful central idea, explosively well presented, is what is important about the film. It says that politicians maintain their power by creating myths that strike fear in the general population. The scarier the myth, the greater the power of those who promulgate it. The cases in point are American neoconservatives and radical Islamists. The film finds remarkable similarities in their origins, their temporary declines, and their resurgence after 9/11. Among its more startling assertions: there is not and never was such an organization as Al Qaeda. (For an excellent – and not uncritical – analysis of the film, see Peter Bergen in The Nation , last summer.)
At any rate, try to see this at your earliest opportunity. I'd love to discuss it with others who have experienced it. I still think this is one of the best (and most entertaining — often disconcertingly funny) nonfiction films I have ever seen. Since it consists of three one-hour parts, watching it on your PC is hardly an acceptable substitute for seeing the film in a theater or on DVD (or TV), but none of those methods are likely in the near future. If you have a fast connection, an alert frame of mind, and a little time, please take a look. By the end of the first 20 minutes, you may find yourself as hooked as I was/am.