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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Elections > Politics > Our Brand Is Crisis (Documentary)

Our Brand Is Crisis (Documentary)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: B-     Documentary: B-



The most enduring system of the current nation-state is progressive Democratic Capitalism long after The Soviet Union collapsed and dozens of countries followed, but the circumstances it takes for that to be possible include a certain combination of integrity, wealth and civil rights.  Emerging markets (aka The Third World) and Second-World countries are not necessarily as equipped to have that system.  Rachel Boynton’s documentary Our Brand Is Crisis (2005) tells us the story of how U.S. political advisors were hired to help the incumbent president of Bolivia stay in power.


They decide to use a form of fear (thus the title) to sell Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada as the candidate for stability and to change to someone else (12 are running for the position in all, but the focus here becomes the top 3 candidates) might make a somewhat miserable situation worse.  There are ups and downs during the campaign and Boynton quietly asks if this is morally a good idea.  That is a legitimate question, but it turns out the electorate is not as vegetative as that of the U.S. and their campaign strategy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Boynton is very sensitive to detail and this is a very well made work, with exceptional pacing, editing and impact of how the events shake down.  After a brutal opening, the rest of the documentary shows how things build up to the boiling point.  James Carville is with Jeremy Rosner and company in plotting how to best get their man in.  Despite their knowledge and experience, the over-reliance on technical statistics feels more like a music act following a Billboard chart than anyone paying attention to the people.  That insensitivity figure and miscommunication within the camp also reminds us of the same kind of anger and carelessness too many U.S. campaigns offer.  Our Brand Is Crisis is a nice change-of-pace from the (however earned or not) “Bash Bush” cycle of political documentaries that says some important things that will outlast many of its contemporaries.  I wish it went on longer.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image is softer than usual, in part because this footage was shot on low-def digital and with the budget, is lucky to look as good as it does on this DVD now.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is simple stereo at best and sometimes lower in its transfer than it should be or just has the occasional location recording flaw.  Under the circumstances, this plays well enough.  Extras include the original trailer and exceptional feature-length audio commentary by Boynton.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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