Once director John Sayles decided to make Silver City, a satire starring Chris Cooper as a not so thinly veiled version of George W. Bush, he knew one thing: He wanted it to come out before the 2004 presidential election. ”It’s gonna have more impact,” Sayles says. ”Whenever there’s a lot of attention on politics, it’s a good time to put a political movie out.”
And so, in the lead-up to November, prep yourself for an onslaught of politically minded pop culture. It’ll be an unprecedented deluge, one with bite — at least when it’s aimed at President Bush. Alongside Silver City, look for at least two legend-burnishing feature documentaries on Democratic candidate John Kerry, as well as Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911, the Bowling for Columbine director’s doc on the ties between the Bush family and the bin Ladens.
But if movies don’t move you, read a book — say, Bill Clinton’s memoir, My Life, out in June. Meanwhile, ”There’s more negative stuff about Bush than I’ve ever seen about anyone along these lines,” says Danny Gainsburg, co-owner of the D.C. bookshop Politics & Prose. The juiciest of all might be The Family, the Bush dynasty tell-all by dirt-digging biographer Kitty Kelley, due in September. Which hardly impresses conservative commentator Ann Coulter: ”Finally a journalist with some credibility is going to take a crack at [the Bushes]. What, they couldn’t get Jackie Collins?”
Blame the Iraq war, a hard-charging President, and angry artists for the glut. ”The amount of it might have to do with the size of the stakes,” Sayles says. Steve Rosenbaum, director of Inside the Bubble, a doc on the Kerry campaign due in September, says that Bush’s policies are button-pushers: ”I think there are people in the creative community who feel threatened.”
Can books and films actually affect the election? Cracks Coulter: ”Barbra Streisand buying 10 million copies of [Moore’s] Stupid White Men is not going to get John Kerry elected.” But Simon & Schuster’s David Rosenthal argues that splashy books like Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack (just published by his company) carry weight. ”They set the agenda for what the media is talking about for a few weeks,” he says, ”and they set the agenda for what voters are thinking about.”
Filmmakers aren’t so sure. Says George Butler, whose September documentary Tour of Duty details Kerry’s Vietnam experience: ”It’s very rare that a piece of art changes life.”