Few recent films have aroused a greater hubbub than Gabriel Range's Death of a President.
Written by Range and co-producer Simon Finch
, Death of a President
is a fictional-documentary account of what might happen if President Bush were assassinated. In response to a film many of them had not seen, pundits such as Pat Buchanan have fumed that this type of narrative is "out of bounds." GOP Congressperson Peter King and others have urged theaters not to screen the film. Democrats such as Hillary Clinton have lent their voices to the hue and cry.
Nonetheless, Death of a President, raising various issues concerning security, liberty and the American way of life during the past five years, has gone on to win the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. Born in England, Range has lived and worked in the US for a number of years as a journalist. His directorial credits include The Day Britain Stopped (2003) and The Man Who Broke Britain (2004).
Why did you want to make this film?
Whenever there's a horrific event of any kind, any sort of national tragedy, there's a period of reflection. Imagining the assassination of President Bush is very striking. It's a very arresting way of saying: Where have we got to in the last five years? It struck me as a very provocative way of asking some questions about how the war on terror has been conduced, about the decision to invade Iraq, and providing a fresh refection on some of things that have happened in the last five years.
Why set it in Chicago?
Setting aside Kent State, the images of the Chicago Police Department pulling people off that statue in Grant Park, or beating people outside the Hilton on Michigan Avenue during the  Democratic Convention - this is regarded by historians as the sort of moment when there was an awareness of how divisive the war in Vietnam had become. Chicago has been the scene of some huge anti-war demonstrations for the current conflict. So it felt appropriate to explore some of those [resonances].
Why set the date on October 19, 2007?
October 19 was a date when we could make some reasonable assumptions about the state of administration and the likely political agenda at the time. It's fair to say the situation in Iraq is unlikely to have improved dramatically by October 19. Obviously, President Bush is still in office. Some of the guesses we were making about the future have proved to be quite prescient. In the film, President Bush delivers a quite uncompromising message to North Korea and on the date the film was released in the UK, North Korea announced it had completed its first successful nuclear test. Bush was on our TV screen saying something very similar to what he said in 2003, so hopefully we're getting some things right.
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