As quietly provocative as its thoughtful protagonist, Steve Skrovan and Henriette Mantel's galvanizing documentary, AN UNREASONABLE MAN, examines how one of the 20th century's most admired and indefatigable social activists, Ralph Nader, became a pariah among the same progressive circles he helped champion. Utilizing the standard documentary formula of archival footage, talking-head interviews, and the occasional computer-animated graphic, the film deftly traces Nader's life and career with a robust, lively pace that follows him from his upbringing in a Lebanese immigrant family that took its commitment to civic engagement very seriously (the family discussed politics at the dinner table and attended town-hall meetings together) to his role as the leading consumer advocate of the 1960s and '70s (when he took on the automobile industry and became responsible for many safety features modern consumers take for granted, such as seatbelts and airbags).
But the film really picks up steam--and takes the form of an impassioned public debate--when it tackles the contentious 2000 and 2004 presidential runs that elicited accusations of splitting the Democratic vote and enabling the election of George W. Bush, making enemies of Nader's most ardent supporters (including celebrity pundits Michael Moore and Bill Maher; liberal journalists Eric Alterman and Todd Gitlin; and even former members of Nader's own advocacy group, Nader’s Raiders) while cementing the continued respect of fellow activists like Mark Green and James Ridgeway. That all these figures appear on screen--alongside such disparate political luminaries as Phil Donahue, Pat Buchanan, and Nader himself--stands as a testament to the film's balanced approach, one that makes a nonpartisan plea that such a lifelong crusader for social justice not be remembered as a mere "spoiler," but as a consummate public advocate and a living example of the average citizen's power to participate in the democratic process.
2 hrs. 3 mins.
May 29, 2007, 00:41:50
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