Convention -- Film Review



NEW YORK -- A cinema verite-style documentary about the 2008 Democratic National Convention that seems almost as long as the proceedings themselves, "Convention" provides evidence that not everything needs to be captured on film. Directed by AJ Schnack ("Kurt Cobain About a Son") with footage provided by such notable documentarians as Laura Poitras ("My Country, My Country"), Daniel Junge ("They Killed Sister Dorothy") and several others, the film is a tedious slog.

In terms of drama, 2008 Denver was not exactly 1968 Chicago, the result being that this effort -- clearly inspired by the works of such predecessors as Pennebaker, the Maysles and Robert Drew, among others -- instead concentrates on the behind-the-scenes minutiae attending the putting on of a large-scale event. Politics barely are mentioned, and political figures are seen only in onstage footage. This might as well be about the creation of a Super Bowl halftime show.

Of course, most Super Bowls don't include protesters, though the ragtag group caught on film here barely qualifies: "Worst protesters ever," one unimpressed newspaper editor sniffs.

Most of the film's running time features city officials attempting to cope with the massively complicated logistics attending such proceedings, and with the local newspaper reporters, urged by their editor to work hard to compete with the New York Times. The pressure clearly gets to one young journalist, who is seen breaking into tears over deadline pressures.

The filmmaker, clearly aware that most of the footage captured was less than momentous, employs a nicely tongue-in-cheek soundtrack featuring everything from Gilbert and Sullivan ditties to showtunes.

Interesting trivia note: John Hickenlooper, the Denver mayor seen frequently here, is the cousin of filmmaker George Hickenlooper ("Factory Girl").

Opened: Friday, June 4 (IFC Films)
Production: Bonfire Films of America, Unconventional Nonfiction
Director: AJ Schnack
Producers: Jennifer Chikes, Britta Erickson, Shirley Moyers, AJ Schnack, Nathan Truesdell
Executive producers: Richard Turner, Heather Winters, Joe Morley, Peter G. Chikes, Nancy M. Chikes
Directors of photography: Steven Bognar, Daniel Junge, Laura Poitras, Julia Reichert, Wayne Robbins, AJ Schnack, Paul Taylor, Nathan Truesdell, David Wilson
Editors: AJ Schnack, Nathan Truesdell
No rating, 95 minutes