Chicago Film Festival: Watergate exhumes the Presidential Sins of the Past
Viewed at both the 56th New York Film Festival and the 54th Chicago International Film Festival
Dwight Casimere | 10/15/2018, 10:09 p.m.
Long before the OJ trial dominated public attention and the airwaves with an unfolding real-life drama, there was Watergate. With all acumen of a skill criminal investigator, Director and Screenwriter Charles Ferguson exhumes the Watergate case and examines it with meticulous forensic detail that plays out like a tightly wound Hitchcock suspense drama. What began as a bottomo-basement burglary blossoms into a Constitutional crisis right before our eyes. Ferguson takes viewers from the Watergate break-in of Democratic headquarters in 1972, through the explosive Senate committee hearings that played out on national TV to Nixon's final resignation. The director uses on camera interviews from key players like former Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein, Pat Buchanan., the late Sen. John McCain and John Dean to less familiar voices that have been buried in the time capsule of history such as Daniel Ellsberg, Morton Halperin, William Ruckelshaus, and Elizabeth Holtzman, Archival footage along with news clips and reenactments using spot-on actor characterizations combined to create a spin-chilling saga. The film keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, as they listen with preened ears to every vital detail. Its impossible to doze through any part of this film, even though its four hours long with a brief intermission. In addition, the parallels to today's political landscape are uncanny. Words and phrases like "coverup," "obstruction of justice," "election interference," are sprinkled liberally throughout. Even now, there are late breaking developments regarding the Watergate scandal. A federal judge has ordered the National Archives to release the investigative "road map" used by prosecutors to investigate allegations that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The documents had been sealed for 44 years and can now be released to the news media and the public. Then special prosecutor Leon Jaworski is quoted as saying the road map provided the key evidence in his probe of presidential wrongdoing. The film ends with the famous quote from George Santayana "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Ferguson's probative lens reveals one eye-popping fact after another. This film is sure to win an Oscar.