One of the very best political documentary films of the year — and one that is terribly relevant to this election campaign — is about a man who died in 1991. Here at the Impact Film Festival I just saw Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, a powerful and strangely moving account of how sewer tactics became business as usual in the modern Republican Party. Avoiding the didactic tone of too many political films, director Stefan Forbes has created a fascinating biopic about the charismatic, contradictory, deeply warped figure whose remorseless attitude toward truth and decency lives on (in the persons of Karl Rove and Steve Schmidt) long after his sad demise from brain cancer. Forbes tells the tale with amazing archival footage dug up from the Bush and Reagan presidential libraries and through a series of interviews with campaign operatives, friends and journalists who discuss Atwater. In some instances, the interviewees also reveal something of their own character. Ed Rollins is a good guy. Mary Matalin, by contrast, best known these days as the “editor” of Jerome Corsi’s Obama Nation, obviously learned all of Lee’s lessons too well. Full disclosure: I’m in the film too.
Boogie Man provides a fresh perspective on the political history of the past generation, but it is also a warning about what is coming tomorrow, next week and next month, as Atwater’s heirs unveil the distortions and distractions that they hope will elect John McCain. Don’t miss it when it comes to a theatre near you this fall. (And if it doesn’t then be sure to order the DVD).