If “Our Nixon” isn’t one of the best movies at SXSW then it certainly should be the greatest underdog story of the festival. This movie miraculously turned 36 hours of silent archival footage into a living breathing story of Richard Nixon’s controversial administration during his time in office.
The fact that director and co-producer Penny Lane and assistant producer Brian Frye were able to create such an emotional connection with the audience through the medium of silent found footage is a spectacular feat. The footage was originally shot by H. R. Haldeman, John Erlichman and Dwight Chapin, who were on Nixon’s administration and recorded nearly everything on super 8 film cameras. The footage has been locked up for 40 years and for the first time it is available for public access. The film looks not at Nixon’s bureaucratic life, but instead at his life behind the curtain. The audience is directed through historical moments from the perspective of our president. The audience is given the raw, unfiltered side to a slightly deceptive president. Weather or not Nixon was a good man doesn’t seem to be the focus of the film, instead the audience see in a world which would normally be behind closed doors, and examine the role of the presidency without the media’s bias.
You hear a confused, baffled and slightly shaky voice talking as Nixon voices concern on the phone to Dwight Chapin. You hear an overconfident self indulgent man praising himself after a speech to another co-worker. What fascinates me most is how the film connects to viewer to the administration on an emotional level. Office pranks, friendships and general attitudes behind the scenes made this office seem not so different from so many other offices. The people who govern the country are like you and me. Part of that statement is scary. And because of this movie when I walked out of the theater I walked away with a slightly different perspective of Washington and the people that lead the country. For that reason I think everyone should see this documentary. A great collection of found footage from behind closed doors of one of the biggest scandals in American History.