Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains
(2007, Jonathan Demme)
The inherent problem with former U.S. Presidents is that they’re politicians. But there is another inherent problem – Americans tend to remember the past in a positive light. Think back on how fondly Ronald Reagan was lionized upon his passing, though he was certainly a controversial President.
Jimmy Carter’s legacy is that of a failed President who took office in a difficult time for America. During his term, U.S. hostages were seized in Iran, the U.S. suffered through an energy crisis, and there was a worldwide sense of unrest, from Afghanistan to the Middle East to the West Bank.
However, director Jonathan Demme chooses to focus on Carter the man in the days since his Presidency — the time where Carter’s recent resurgence in the public eye has been established. We think of Carter now and we think of his involvement with Habitat for Humanity. We think of his humble roots and his sense of family and community. We think of his continuing efforts with international governments long after the job has been given to others. We think of him bringing peace between Israel and Egypt.
And he’s a likeable guy. Unfortunately, at the time of filming, he’s not winning a lot of Israeli friends after penning a book entitled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Demme follows Carter on his book tour which features stops at several PBS and NPR stations – you’ll see all your faves, from Terry Gross to Tavis Smiley. And in the meantime, he’s also tireless in talking with groups who would oppose his viewpoint. What it all proves is that Carter is unafraid to defend his opinions on world affairs, even though he’s no longer President and no longer needs to burden himself with anything other than bran intake and regular doctor’s checkups.
So what do we learn from this picture? That Carter’s a good, approachable guy, while our current President is not. That Carter is a man of discourse and peace, while our current President is not. That’s it, isn’t it? That we really could use someone like Jimmy back in the White House again?!?
Well, I like Jimmy Carter, the man from tiny Plains, Georgia, but I can honestly say I’m glad it’s just a movie. And I like Jonathan Demme, but I’d rather watch Stop Making Sense.