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An encomium for the first woman to run on a major party’s ticket for the White House, Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way is the kind of admiring doc one would expect from a director, Donna Zaccaro, who is the late vice presidential candidate’s daughter. Recapping an impressive career almost 30 years after Ferraro and Walter Mondale lost to Ronald Reagan and George Bush, the enjoyable film makes a fine point of entry for younger viewers who might not have understood the tributes paid upon Ferraro’s death in 2011; though its big-screen career may be limited to fests, a video release would be welcomed by students of politics and gender equality.
Interviewed in the final months of her years-long battle with cancer, Ferraro shows no evidence of the toll the disease had taken. She recounts enough details of her youth to make her barrier-breaking adult career seem preordained: Named for an older brother who died before she was born, she was raised by a mother who owned a family business and insisted there was nothing boys could do that young Gerry couldn’t.
After agreeing to be a mostly stay-at-home mom until her children were all in school full-time, Ferraro used her legal education to get a job in the Queens County District Attorney’s office. She made an impression with a new special victims unit for cases involving rape and domestic violence, and soon ran for Congress under the cheeky slogan “Finally … a tough Democrat.”
Clips of her in public settings depict a remarkable communicator whose straight talk and logic-driven arguments would be welcome on the current political scene; as colleagues recall with admiration, she also had a realistic view of the compromise-based political process that young idealists often lack. (“She’s one of us,” Tip O’Neill is said to have remarked admiringly.) Interviews with other women who made up the House’s tiny female contingent convey a spirit of solidarity while depicting her as a rising star.
Mondale acknowledges her talents, recalling that he had no interest in selecting a “token female” as his running mate. Footage from the national convention in which he presented her to the world is effervescent, and for a time polls suggested they actually might unseat the incumbents.
That didn’t happen, of course. Paving the Way shows how hard the candidate worked for her team while depicting the campaign against her as both willfully dishonest and slanted in ways that would become familiar to female politicians in decades to come. (Republican campaign consultant Ed Rollins admits “there was a covert operation” to get Ferraro, spearheaded by an irate Nancy Reagan.)
Though the movie never locates interviewees who have anything critical to say about Ferraro in the present tense, it takes pains to include some high-profile ones who opposed her at the time: Between visits with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright and other high-profile supporters, we sit couchside as George H. W. and Barbara Bush recall how, once the election was over, Bush and Ferraro forgot their heated debate and became good friends.
Production: Dazzling Media
Director: Donna Zaccaro
Producers: Donna Zaccaro, Janice DeRosa, Andrew Morreale
Director of photography: Jim Sicile
Editor: Andrew Morreale
Sales: The Film Sales Company
No rating, 86 minutes
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