EmptyBergen Film Festival
BERGEN, Norway -- Crawford, Texas is just like thousands of small towns across America except for the fact that, since 1999, one of its residents has been a certain George Walker Bush. Now that the 43rd President’s term in office is nearly up, we’re experiencing a predictable plethora of documentaries and even some fiction features examining this particularly divisive public figure. While this 74-minute, DV-shot picture is essentially small-screen and festival-circuit fare, Paul Modigliani’s “Crawford” (a.k.a. “Crawford, Texas”), takes a profitably oblique, location-specific approach to a sprawling, complex subject.
The focus is on the supposedly “ordinary” citizens of Crawford (pop. 705) although, over several years’ filming, Modigliani concentrates on six of the more voluble and colorful locals. These range across the current American political spectrum from raw-steak red - a liberal-baiting horsebreaker who won’t have a word said against his beloved ‘Dubya’ - to “bleeding-heart” blue - a perky high-school teacher dismayed at the policies of her near-neighbor.
Though perpetually confined to his sprawling ranch whenever he’s “home,” Bush himself makes his presence felt throughout: Crawford enjoys a tourist-trap mini-boom after his arrival -- and then a bust as his growing post-9/11 unpopularity is accompanied by increasingly tough economic times, plus the sudden arrival of myriad vocal anti-war demonstrators.
A third-act tragedy involving one of the most empathetic interviewees sees proceedings take a joltingly tragic turn, but otherwise the tone is genial, wry and observational. Indeed, a little more analysis and a little less folksy atmospherics wouldn’t have gone amiss.