Docu ambitiously strives to show how national politics effect and are effected by rap. Impressive array of rap artists weigh in on the direct connection between White House occupancy and quality of life in the 'hood. Quincy Jones imprimatur should prove irresistible to cable.

Part history lesson, part hip-hop contribution to the current indie docu drive to oust Bush, “Letter to the President” ambitiously strives to show how national politics effect and are effected by rap. Docu traces hip-hop’s ascendancy to bad times under Reagan and the sellout of hip-hop to good times under Clinton. An impressive array of rap artists weigh in on the importance of voting and the direct connection between White House occupancy and quality of life in the ‘hood. Occasionally uninspired choices of archival materials tend more toward illustration than revelation, but timeliness and Quincy Jones imprimatur should prove irresistible to cable.

Tyro documentarian Thomas Gibson has constructed a condensed political primer for a disenfranchised generation. He offers hip-hop legends like Notorious B.I.G., KRS-One and Raekwon as teachers, tosses in journalists and civic leaders for ballast and Snoop Dogg as dot-connecting narrator. Audibly, pic works well, mixing in dissenting voices and avoiding preachiness. Visually, however, pic proves uneven, strong on establishing links between crack and the Contras, but weak in its unvarying footage of Reagan accompanying its multi-sourced voiceover critique. “W.”, by contrast, provides a cornucopia of ironic photo ops.

Letter to the President

Production

A QD3 production. Produced by Trinh Banh, Quincy Jones III, Thomas Gibson. Executive producer, Jones. Directed by Thomas Gibson. Written by Gibson, Sharmilia Ariathurai.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Jeff Bollman; editor, Ariathurai. Reviewed at Urbanworld Film Festival, New York, Aug. 7, 2004. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Snoop Dogg, KRS-1, Common, Ghostface Killah, Dennis Kucinich, Larry Flynt, Dame Dash, Dick Gregory, Raekwon.
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