Country: United States
Directors: Henriette Mantel, Steve Skrovan
Topic: A look at crusading consumer advocate Ralph Nader’s career beyond the presidential campaigns that cast a pall over it.
Financing: “Steve financed the whole thing himself,” says Mantel.
Shooting format: Digital (DVCPRO 50), edited on Final Cut Pro.
Why it stands out: Entertaining and evenhanded. Given all the political spin around Nader as an election “spoiler,” Mantel (who worked as Nader’s office manager in her early 20s) and Skrovan (an Emmy-winning comedy writer) put Nader’s bid for president in the context of his entire career, including his decades of consumer activism.
Memorable scene: Unaired national news footage shows a state trooper threatening to arrest Nader outside the 2000 presidential debate, to which he’d legitimately acquired a ticket. “Why wasn’t this on NBC?” Skrovan asks. “This perfect little fascist moment of a corporation using the state police to bar a political candidate from even coming near them wasn’t newsworthy enough for the mainstream media, and the only way people are going to see this is the documentary.”
Distribution status: Helmers submitted a 3:15 version to Sundance, then trimmed it to 2:35 in time for the fest. IFC Films will release the final 1:59 cut in January.
On the making of the film: After doing all the other interviews, the filmmakers sat down with Nader for three days. “He truly isn’t into being lionized. I think it embarrasses him,” says Skrovan, who cites Errol Morris’ “The Fog of War” as one of his models. “I thought, ‘Well, if (Morris) can make an 85-year-old guy with liver spots interesting, I can get 40 people with liver spots.”