×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Convention

"Convention" is a bipartisan, upbeat celebration of democracy's delicate membrane and can-do spirit.

With:
With: Katherine Archuletta, Chantal Unfug, Guillermo "Bill" Vidal, John Hickenlooper, Curtis Hubbard, Mark Cohen, Barbara Cohen, Glenn Spagnuolo, Lee Ann Colacioppo, Allison Sherry, Jeremy Meyer, Gregory Moore, Kevin Scott, Ellis Stanley.

By placing Denver’s administrative process of organizing and running the 2008 Democratic confab ahead of the event’s political content, AJ Schnack’s “Convention” becomes a bipartisan, upbeat celebration of democracy’s delicate membrane and can-do spirit. Following preems June 17 as SilverDocs’ centerpiece presentation and June 22 at the Los Angeles fest, pic will be in great demand on the circuit and could do decent niche theatrical prior to healthy ancillary.

Sending an invitation to colleagues “down for whatever,” Schnack assembled a core team of lensers that included vet documentarians Daniel Junge (“They Killed Sister Dorothy”), Laura Poitras (“My Country, My Country”), Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar (“A Lion in the House”) and Paul Taylor (“We Are Together”).

Helmer’s central strategy — and it is an inspired one — is to emulate in tone and flow of the groundbreaking work of early nonfiction pioneers Robert Drew (a personal hero), Albert and David Maysles, D.A. Pennebaker and Ricky Leacock. Thus, with the exception of sparingly used talking heads, “Convention” flows seamlessly among the various hotbeds of activity during the convention’s tumultuous four days.

Cheerful Denver mayor John Hickenlooper — cousin of helmer George, in post on his own convention movie — sets the tone early by admitting, “What worries me is really that we don’t know what we don’t know. You can have a lot of really smart people spend a lot of time on something and you’re never going to foresee everything.”

Those really smart people include Democratic National Committee lead city planner Katherine Archuletta, fresh-faced mayoral special assistant Chantal Unfug, enthusiastic deputy mayor Guillermo “Bill” Vidal, unflappable city permit and protest liaison Kevin Scott and Emergency Operations Center director Ellis Stanley. Meanwhile, at the Denver Post, political editor Curtis Hubbard rallies his troops to best the much larger New York Times contingent: “We don’t want to read about Nancy Pelosi’s speech for six days running.”

Emerging as underdogs from these two contingents are Unfug, chasing John Hickenlooper’s accreditation with only hours until he’s due onstage, and Post staff writer Allison Sherry, who buckles under the pressure of her first political assignment but rallies for a strong finish.

The sheer scope of the undertaking aside, conflict and comic relief emerge in the form of Recreate 68, a Denver-based ragtag group led by lefties Mark and Barbara Cohen and their confrontational co-founder, Glenn Spagnuolo. Marching in support of — well, that’s never made clear exactly — their presence morphs from potentially disruptive to piteously ineffectual. “Worst protesters ever,” someone hoots, reinforcing democracy’s fundamental tenet of having to put up with one another.

Crews indeed prove they’re down for whatever, as intimate, seemingly effortless footage abounds of the unfolding dramas and Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s climactic acceptance at Denver’s football stadium. Rooting interest in the participants is sustained by Schnack’s smart decision to reidentify participants throughout the film.

Tech package is crystalline on all fronts. Of particular note are the yeoman efforts of music supervisor Linda Cohen, who mixes Gilbert and Sullivan, vintage political ditties, Americana and even showtunes into a dazzling soundtrack of positivism. Closing title cards chart the bittersweet fates of the major players and notes that Post rival Rocky Mountain News — absent from the proceedings — shuttered six months after the convention.

Convention

Production: A Bonfire Films of America/Unconventional Nonfiction production, in association with Studio-on-Hudson, Just Media. Produced by Jennifer Chikes, Britta Erickson, Shirley Moyers, AJ Schnack, Nathan Truesdell. Executive producers, Richard Turner, Heather Winters, Joe Morley, Peter G. Chikes, Nancy M. Chikes. Directed by AJ Schnack.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Steven Bognar, Daniel Junge, Laura Poitras, Julia Reichert, Wayne Robbins, Schnack, Paul Taylor, Nathan Truesdell, David Wilson; editors, Schnack, Truesdell; music supervisor, Linda Cohen; sound, Bognar, Junge, Poitras, Reichert, Robbins, Schnack, Taylor, Truesdell; supervising sound editor, Kyle Schember. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, June 11, 2009. (In Silverdocs Film Festival, Silver Spring, Md.--Centerpiece Screening; Los Angeles Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Katherine Archuletta, Chantal Unfug, Guillermo "Bill" Vidal, John Hickenlooper, Curtis Hubbard, Mark Cohen, Barbara Cohen, Glenn Spagnuolo, Lee Ann Colacioppo, Allison Sherry, Jeremy Meyer, Gregory Moore, Kevin Scott, Ellis Stanley.

More Film

  • Bob Bakish Variety Cover Story

    Inside Bob Bakish's Aggressive Turnaround Plan for Viacom

    Bob Bakish was days into his job as CEO of Viacom in late 2016 when he began convening meetings with senior executives to execute a triage effort to save the once-mighty media giant. Paramount Pictures had just posted a $445 million annual loss. Viacom’s cable networks were in danger of being dropped by major distributors [...]

  • Assassin's Creed

    'Duke Nukem' Movie Draws 'Assassin's Creed' Producer

    A “Duke Nukem” movie is in the works with Gearbox Software teaming with “Assassin’s Creed” producer Jean-Julien Baronnet to adapt the video game into a feature film, Variety has learned exclusively. Gearbox had been working on “Duke Nukem” with Paramount Studios and Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, with John Cena rumored as a possible star earlier [...]

  • Juliette Binoche Slack Bay

    Juliette Binoche Named Jury President of 2019 Berlin Film Festival

    Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche will preside over the main jury at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival. Binoche is known worldwide for her work in such films as “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “Chocolat.” She won an Academy Award and a Silver Bear in Berlin for her role in Anthony Minghella’s “The English Patient,” [...]

  • Eklektik, Alba, Aramos Set Ventana Sur

    Ventana Sur: Belgium's Eklektik, Italy's Alba, Argentina's Aramos Co-Produce 'The Veil' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Belgian film house Eklektik Productions is teaming with Italy’s Alba Produzioni and Argentina’s Aramos Cine to co-produce Stefano Pasetto’s feature drama project “El velo” (The Veil). “The Veil” was presented at September’s San Sebastian Co-Production Forum and then chosen for pitching at the upcoming Proyecta showcase, a new joint initiative launched by Argentine film-TV market [...]

  • Ventana Sur: Latido Films Acquires Hari

    Ventana Sur: Latido Swoops on ‘This Is Not Berlin’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — In the first deal to be announced on a title in Ventana Sur’s three live-action feature competitions, Madrid-based Latido Films, headed by Antonio Saura, has acquired world rights outside Mexico on Hari Sama’s Copia Final contender “This Is Not Berlin.” Latido’s buy, celebrated with a handshake at Ventana Sur, effectively re-calibrates the [...]

  • Storyboard Media Announce David Albala’s ‘Viento

    Storyboard Media Announce David Albala’s ‘Viento Blanco’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Chile’s Storyboard Media has announced an agreement to co-produce, along with Calibre71, Javier Valdés and Benjamin Vicuña, director David Albala’s second feature, “Viento Blanco.” (“White Wind”) Albala’s debut, “Jailbreak Pact,” turned on a dramatic real-life prison-break which took place in Santiago, Chile in 1990. That film was also produced by Calibre 71, and featured Chilean [...]

  • C International Sales, Pablo Solarz Ink

    C International Sales Inks Sales Representation Deal with Argentina’s Pablo Solarz (EXCLUSIVE)

    Argentina’s Pablo Salarz, one of Latin America’s best-known film and TV writer-directors, has entered a non-exclusive financing relationship with C International Sales, the international arm of Cinestaan Film Company. Although non-exclusive, the deal is an early example of international companies moving to court or tie-down key talent in Latin America. The deal was negotiated by C International [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content