There are some subjects that you just have to keep talking about…
While Watergate: Or How We Learned How To Stop An Out of Control President certainly goes over some fairly familiar ground it’s a rare and amazing thing that we get to see it all rehashed in such an extensive and shockingly culturally relevant way. You can’t often say that a two part, 260 min documentary is compelling as all hell but there it is.
After originally airing on the History Channel in the States, Watergate is without a doubt the most patient examination of this salient piece of history and serves as a pretty good road map for what is going on in the halls of power in the United States as we speak. It draws from 3400 hours of audio tapes, archival footage, declassified documents and weaves together a tapestry of understanding about the entire Watergate narrative that elegantly understated and relevant today on so many levels.
Writer/Director Charles Ferguson doesn’t hesitate to take the deep dive here on this film and his time simply couldn’t have been better. As he slowly wades into the minutia of it all we can’t help but get enthralled because through his interviews with so many subjects on the events he makes sure that the detail is there and makes us understand as an audience that this is going to be an incredibly dense and engaging.
While his use of re-enactments; particularly in the first part get a little tedious he really does walk a very careful tightrope as he deftly blends archival footage and his talking heads to make sure that every little point gets hammered home. Ferguson has a clear goal here and it’s something that can occasionally get lost in the process of filmmaking.
With Watergate, Ferguson is taking great pains to make sure we know how every little detail unfolded so we have a better understanding of how it all ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
In the non-stop news cycle and content rich society that we live in these days, it’s so easy to gloss over and miss those kinds of things. He wants us as an audience to know because the reality is that it’s important for everyone to keep their eyes open these days as things like this happen again, in even a more brazen and bold fashion then Watergate itself.
The entire experience all plays out in a clean and efficient fashion and can serve as an introduction to the topic or a primer on this unique moment in human history. It’s rare that a movie can function on both levels like that, but this one manages it all with aplomb.
I can’t deny that it won’t be for everyone to sit through essentially two films (totalling 4 hours and 20 minutes) on politics, but Watergate makes it all work on a very simple and salient level as it leans on the crux of a simply quote from philosopher George Santayana that has never rung more true than it does these days.
“Those Who Can Not Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It”
Watergate: Or How We Learned How To Stop An Out of Control President is playing at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in two parts…get down there and see it.