The Reagan Show

The Reagan Show is about Hollywood B-list actor-turned-conservative dream president Ronald Reagan, told entirely through found footage, but the timing and certain elements betray its true intentions.

Reagan was elected in 1981, in the early days of easily accessible video equipment, leading to an unprecedented amount of private white house video.  These videos, along with news footage and scenes from his own movies, come together to give an in-depth account of Reagan’s presidency.  However, the account that the filmmakers wish to give is not the accepted conservative reaction, but one of celebrity, complete with manufactured meetings, artificial backstory and even outtakes, as the president is followed through his dealing with the Soviet Union and the Iran-Contra Affair.

But why now?  Why would directors Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez want to make a documentary about Ronald Reagan well over a decade after his death?  It becomes obvious fairly early on with four words: “make America great again.”  The Reagan Show is a great documentary about Ronald Reagan, but an even greater film about how the cult of personality can turn an incompetent person into an iconic president: news footage tells of concerns about Reagan being lazy, not doing his work and going on too many vacations.  Does any of this sound familiar?

Even putting the politics aside, this film has a certain aesthetic appeal that beckons to television, early video and that lo-fi imagery that defined the 1980s.  This is made even better by the fact that a lot of the footage is pretty unnecessary: among the meetings between heads of state are bits of footage of Reagan mispronouncing a name, having a conversation with a turkey, and joking around with his underlings.

The only complaint that could be made about this doc is the fact that there isn’t much of anything incriminating in the videos, similar to Nixon’s tapes, but presidents back then were not stupid enough to publicly air their dirty laundry.  Now, it’s a whole different story.


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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam

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