Good News for Film Lovers

Posted February 23, 2007 at 6:02pm

The last week of February and the entire month of March will feature an array of films coming to TV and the big screen to whet your versatile palette. [IMGCAP(1)]

• On Friday and Saturday of last week perennial Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader was scheduled to be on hand at the E Street Cinema to discuss his new documentary “An Unreasonable Man.” The film opened there last week and the theater will continue to feature several screenings throughout this week, though no more Nader appearances are on the schedule. “An Unreasonable Man” features a look into Nader’s life and, specifically, how he became the leader of the modern consumer movement. Visit www.anunreasonableman.com for more information.

• On Tuesday night PBS asks the question: “Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?” The broadcasting company’s Independent Lens series will show “Mr. Smith,” a documentary on the “David” candidate of a David vs. Goliath election, the 10-person Democratic primary race for Missouri’s 3rd district in 2004. The screening is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. (check local listings).

Jeff Smith, an underdog like no other, stars as David, while now-Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) suits up as Goliath. A political analyst interviewed in the film likened the Carnahan family of Missouri to that of the Kennedys of Massachusetts — and that was putting it mildly, as the film captured the severity of the family connections and money tree — whereas Smith comes from a family that you hardly would call a political powerhouse.

The documentary convincingly portrays the competition between Smith and Carnahan as David vs. Goliath. It depicts Smith — a 29-year-old adjunct professor at Washington University and the University of Missouri with no prior elective experience — as an energetic and persuasive man with winning ideas.

Artie Harris, communications director for Smith’s 2004 Congressional campaign, said Smith “is endless energy, brilliant, articulate, [an] amazing guy … even though he’s obviously short, looks like he’s 12 [years old], and, you know, sounds like he’s castrated.”

Conversely, it portrays Carnahan’s weaknesses as a quiet and ineffective ideas man.

So can Mr. Smith get to Washington anymore? Well, not exactly, at least according to the results of the primary — out of eight other candidates Smith finished just behind Carnahan, the eventual general election winner, by a little more than 1,500 votes.

The documentary wonderfully depicted every detail of the goings-on in the heat of the campaign, from campaign organizers and Smith going door-to-door and promoting his ideas to the candidate debates and inter-office workings — although the sheer amount of hard work Smith and his young staff and volunteers put into the novice’s 2004 campaign didn’t matter in the end. For instance, Carnahan won the endorsement of the St. Louis American newspaper, not Smith; Carnahan had the money, not Smith; and Carnahan capitalized with the aid of his mother, a recent and popular former Senator, making calls to boost her son’s campaign, while Smith had none of that.

All of those strikes against the amateur were summed up in one word, as said by Smith in the film: brutal.

“Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?” is a strong and effective documentary — it definitely is one to watch! The film provides some hope for anyone who is a Mr. Smith type of candidate, but it also cites the realistic chances of a young, smart man running for a position that probably is just out of his reach because of a variety of unpredictable and insurmountable challenges.

The documentary’s downfall is its lack of specifics when referencing Carnahan’s funding compared with that of Smith. Viewers want to know exactly how Smith could afford to run a campaign like he did — because he came just shy of winning the primary.

Visit www.mrsmithmovie.com for more information.

• Kicking off Women’s History Month early is a screening of the film “Survivor’s Guide: Against All Odds” at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Room G50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The film tells the story of Kakenya Ntaiya, one of the Maasai people from Kenya, who became the first woman from her village to earn a college education in the United States.

• Continuing in the same vein as “Survivor’s Guide,” the Library of Congress and the Veterans History Project will kick off its film series “Women at War” on Friday to celebrate Women’s History Month. All “Women at War” screenings will be shown beginning at 7 p.m. on Fridays throughout March in the Mary Pickford Theater of the Library of Congress’ James Madison Building.

The series is made up of full-length feature films, film shorts and television episodes featuring women’s roles during World War I and II, and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. The screening schedule is as follows: the 1931 film “Mad Parade” on March 2; the 1944 film “Ladies Courageous” on March 9; the 1953 film “Flight Nurse” on March 16; an episode of the late 1980s television show “China Beach” and a 1966 CBS news program special report titled “Woman Doctor in Vietnam” on March 23; and the 1996 film “Courage Under Fire” on March 30.

Visit www.loc.gov/pickford or call 202-707-5677 for more information on the series.