Coming to select theatres and to virtual cinemas today, Wednesday, September 9:
JIMMY CARTER: ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT
Nantucket, AFI Docs
A consideration of the importance of popular music in the life and political career of the former US president.
Presidential biographies are often fairly staid affairs, stories of how privilege and/or determination allowed the subject to become a great leader and take the seat of the highest office in the country, followed by a recitation of his great achievements or challenge while in power. Mary Wharton’s version is refreshingly different, using the unique lens of music to frame the story of the 39th president. Far from simply acknowledging that Jimmy Carter liked rock ‘n’ roll – which, while in and of itself telling of a generational difference between older politicians – the film explores how he marshalled support from musicians like the Allman Brothers and Jimmy Buffett on his campaign to help attract younger voters to get him elected, as well as his canny use of music as a soft power during his administration, such as his arranging of a trip to Nashville for the Chinese ambassador to the US. While the focus on music fades away a bit in the final stretch of Wharton’s film, its impact is clearly established, making for an enjoyably nostalgic and creative appreciation of Jimmy Carter and of his embrace of music’s ability to unify audiences.