"Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains": Honest Fighter for Peace, Environment and Human Rights By Zlatko Vidackovic

in 64th Venice International Film Festival

by Zlatko Vidackovic

Jonathan Demme’s new documentary on the former American president Jimmy Carter titled Man from Plains mainly follows Carter (now 83-years-old) on a promotional tour in support of his provocative book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” which claims that Israel will not find peace unless it completely withdraws from the occupied territories. The documentary also deals with the main issues of Carter’s presidency (1977-1981) and with his present work.

Demme’s direction is very subtle, honest and sincere. After Michael Moore’s strong and effective punch-in-the face propaganda documentary against Bush, this is a move in a completely different direction. The director openly presents the arguments against Carter and gives floor to his opponents as well. Demme’s camera is a discreet companion, and the documentary has neither a narrator nor direct interviews.

Jimmy Carter has, to me, been remembered for several things: he introduced windfall-profits tax on oil companies, pardoned all the draft evaders of Vietnam War era, signed the Panama Canal Treaty, condemned racism in South Africa, established diplomatic relations with China and withdrew forces from Taiwan and most importantly managed to convince Egypt and Israel to sign the Camp David Accords and therefore end the 31-year state of war. Demme’s documentary points out that the success of Camp David was entirely Carter’s success, which in the crucial point was reached with the use of pure, genuine emotions.

The relevance of this documentary lies in lessons that the world can learn today from Carter, who in retrospective can be seen as a one of the most globally positive American presidents in history. As Demme discretely points out, his priority was not ensuring the American national interest at any cost — he was an honest fighter for peace, environment and human rights. This was probably also one of the main reasons why he lost the election battle with Ronald Reagan.

Demme’s film reminds the global audience of a different face of America that we often forget, and at the same time provides us with a genuine example of competent, sincere and powerful documentary filmmaking.