This fascinating 75-minute video chronicles the transformation of sleepy Crawford over several years of Bush’s presidency. Presented in a non-judgmental fashion, it introduces us to characters of all persuasions who make up this town, and shows how Bush’s arrival creates friction.
In the beginning, residents are thrilled to host the president, and his presence brings an economic boom. The local pastor admits that “probably about 99.9 percent” support Bush for president, and during his first term local businesses thrive, including a gift shop that sells presidential Christmas ornaments. Residents are tickled at meeting such famous guests as Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and a Saudi ambassador.
But over time the residents tire of the theatrics of Bush’s visits home, with its traffic disruptions caused by caravans of police and secret service vehicles. In one of many humorous segments, they express annoyance by the repeated use of a cliched rundown shed and hay bales as the backdrop whenever national TV newscasters report from Crawford.
In another riveting sequence, the town is turned into a political battlefield when as many as 20,000 protesters and counter-protesters descend upon Crawford in 2005 in support of Cindy Sheehan, the “Peace Mom” of a soldier slain in Iraq. Sheehan sets up camp, demanding a meeting with the president, and tempers simmer among residents.
We meet a horse breaker working with a wild horse early on in the story. He describes his rage when he heard of the 9/11 attacks, and later in the film he is so angered when war protesters come to town that he writes anti-protester messages all over his horse and parades around downtown on horseback.
We meet the high school teacher with obvious liberal leanings who encourages her students to think for themselves, and who relishes the protests in Crawford and the political discussions they stimulate. Thanks to George Bush, she asserts, high school students in Crawford know and care a lot about politics and history.
And we get to know many others over the course of this story: the souvenir store owner who adores her president, the coffee shop owner, the local pastor, the newspaper editor who endorsed John Kerry, the retired justice of the peace, the toothless hick and the anti-war high school student.
Shot from 1999 to 2007, this film shows change, growth and transformation of a small community and the people who live there. It is much more a documentary about the lives that are affected by the president than it is about Bush himself, who is seen here only in news footage and home movies. The scenes of him comically sawing branches to impress national TV news cameras, to the bemusement of the local citizenry who aren’t fooled for a minute, is worth the price of admission alone.
“Crawford” represents the first feature-length film on Hulu.com, which is best known for mainstream entertainment fare from major Hollywood studios and networks (in other words, not documentaries). It won an Excellence in Filmmaking Award at the Alexandria Film Festival. Highly recommended viewing, whether or not you’re glad to see the Bushes now return there for good.
Producer and Director: David Modigliani
Editor: Matt Naylor
Cinematography: Deborah Eve Lewis, Cary McClelland, Ryan Pavelchik, Keith Wilson
Music: David Rice with John Egan