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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
A Dirty Job, but Someone Has To Do It
by Betty Jo Tucker

Investigative reporter Greg Palast takes aim at our nation’s first family in Bush Family Fortunes: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, a disturbing documentary reminiscent of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. In fact, Moore calls Palast’s work “courageous reporting,” so it’s no surprise to find some of Palast’s revelations in Moore’s own recent scathing film. 

Although muckraking has an illustrious record in U.S. history, it’s becoming more and more difficult to disseminate whatever is muckraked through mainstream news outlets. Consequently, Palast’s shocking reports were done for the BBC and the UK’s Guardian and Observer newspapers. Palast also published them in his best selling book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, which this documentary is based on.        

Looking and sounding like an escaped character from one of those old film noir/detective flicks, Palast makes an intriguing narrator. He takes viewers through such nightmares as the Florida election fiasco, the Bush-bin Laden family connection, and the Iraqi war -- never passing up a chance to show the dark side of the Bush dynasty. “Listen carefully,” President Bush tells Iraqi citizens in a televised message after our invasion of their country. “Do not destroy the oil wells.”

One of the most distressing things I learned from Bush Family Fortunes was the way many African-American voters were turned away from the polls in the Florida 2002 election. According to Palast, if a person had the same name as a felon on a special list prepared for the occasion, he/she could not vote. This resulted in a large number of innocent people, primarily African-Americans, being disqualified. Palast says Governor Jeb Bush promised to deliver Florida for his brother, and fewer African-American voters fit right into his plans. Palast expresses strong disappointment with Al Gore for giving up too easily when Bush was declared the winner in Florida. Funny, I remember having the same reaction.

Along with the one-hour documentary, this DVD includes interview footage with Palast in which he talks about provocative topics like  political paybacks, the sorry state of the U.S. media today, and the dangers of computerized voting. Viewers are also offered interactive documents that enable them to look at pages of “secret” contracts, memos, minutes of various meetings and so forth.

In the annals of muckraking, certain names stand out because of what they were able to accomplish. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (All the President’s Men) and Upton Sinclair (The Jungle) are among those I most admire. Will Greg Palast's "courageous reporting" accomplish anything important? Will it help reform journalism and media practices in the U.S? Will it influence the outcome of the U.S. 2004 presidential election? Maybe not, but at least Palast hasn’t given up the good fight -- even if it means doing battle from his adopted home in England.    

(Released by Ryko; not rated by MPAA. For more details, visit www.disinfo.com.)


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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