Elevate Difference

Giuliani Time

What politician can, in the span of a few decades, go from being a Kennedy Democrat to a Reagan Republican and, finally, to a man for all parties as Time’s Person of the Year? The answer, as Kevin Keating’s film reveals, is Rudy Giuliani. Keating turns a critical eye on Giuliani’s path towards becoming America’s darling politician by offering a view of the New York Mayor’s pre-September 11th history – a history marked by racism and the overseeing of police brutality. By focusing on Giuliani’s mishandling of petty crimes, police order and race relations, Keating opposes the post-terrorism view of Giuliani as an unquestionable hero. Giuliani Time certainly has its roots in the fury of post-2000 election documentaries that reveal the pervasive but often hidden corruption within the powers that be. What separates the movie from its Fahrenheit 9/11 counterparts is that it presents its anti-Giuliani agenda with less sensationalism. It lacks the indicting soundtrack, the careful cutting and splicing of press conferences into montages that may or may not resemble reality, and the obvious ulterior motive of inciting political rage. All of this makes the film seem more even-handed, when in reality it is not. This deviation from the norm of political documentaries is precisely what makes Keating’s work both compelling and dangerous. The viewer is persuaded, almost without thinking, to take Keating’s depictions of Giuliani as unbiased truth. Because Keating is careful to include commentary from a range of social locations – from professors and nonprofit directors to lawyers and police officers – it takes almost an hour to realize that this film has an agenda of its own, which is aimed at questioning the validity of Giuliani’s hero status. The arrangement of social commentary within the film makes it easy to forget this agenda, to forget the speaking man behind the film. The film, ultimately, serves to reframe the profile of a figure that most of the country knows only in one dimension. The film ends where contemporary eulogizing of Giuliani begins – on September 11, 2001. What Keating provides is undeniably propagandistic in nature even as it plays a role revealing Giuliani’s manifold and serious missteps in his role as a pre-9/11 politician.

Written by: Maggie Fromm, November 29th 2006