Thursday, March 01, 2007

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Jason Nabewaniec said...

Inconvenient Truth: An Unreasonable Man
by M. Faust

Click to watch
Trailer for "An Unreasonable Man"

I would probably be dead right now if it weren’t for Ralph Nader. So would a lot of you.

It’s not an interesting or even terribly unusual story: I was in an auto accident a few years ago (not my fault, I swear), in which I probably would have been impaled on the steering column if not for the car’s air bag. And let’s not forget the seat belt that kept me from slamming skull-first into the windshield. If you think that cars would have these safety features without Nader’s efforts, then you need to see An Unreasonable Man.

Automobile safety is only the tip of the iceberg of consumer protective regulation that Nader and the organizations he has founded or sponsored since the 1960s were instrumental in developing and guiding through Congress. You’d be hard-pressed to argue with the statement made by one interviewee in this documentary that Nader has accomplished more in his career than any American president in living memory.

Most of all, though, you need to see An Unreasonable Man if you feel that Nader is to blame for the presidency of George W. Bush. If it weren’t for Nader’s 2000 run on the Green Party line, the argument goes, the razor-thin balance between Bush and Al Gore would have tilted toward the Democratic Party; hence, Nader is to blame for the Iraq war, the dismantling of the Constitution, obscene tax breaks for corporations, etc.

If that sounds like an argument stretched to the point of absurdity, I’m only quoting what a generally respectable and intelligent liberal pundit says in the film. It’s not just the Democratic “centrists” who want to scapegoat Nader for the loss of two elections that were the Democrats to lose, rather than discuss how out of touch they have grown with their historic base.

Taking its title from a quote by George Bernard Shaw (“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”), this documentary was made by Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan, a pair of neophyte filmmakers with unusual credentials for the genre: Skrovan is a successful sitcom writer (and executive producer of Everyone Loves Raymond); Mantel a standup comic. Skrovan was mining her memories of having worked with Nader’s Raiders in the 1970s for a potential TV series when they realized that the story had a lot more dramatic meat.

I won’t deny that Unreasonable Man is on Nader’s side. But it’s no hagiography: His critics are given ample time to make their case, and it’s clear that many do so with personal sadness.

You may be unpersuaded, feeling that Nader destroyed his own legacy in a fit of megalomania. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded what that legacy is, and to be inspired by the fact that one dedicated man can indeed change the world. And I think you’re much more likely to come away sympathetic to Nader’s position, that the Democratic Party has betrayed its roots and its core principles, following the Republicans rightward while taking voters on the left for granted. Compromise is supposed to be a two-way street, not a dead end. Nader claims not to care about his place in history, satisfied that he has contributed to the public good; whether or not it helps his reputation, this film can still inspire debate to move us toward elections where we are offered real choices.

An Unreasonable Man will be shown on the Emerging Cinema screen at the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center on Wednesday, February 28 at 4:30, 7 and 9:30pm; Thursday, March 1 at 4:30pm; and Friday & Saturday, March 2 & 3 at 9:30pm.

Jason Nabewaniec said...

'An Unreasonable Man'

Jack Garner
Staff film critic

(March 1, 2007) — The slogan for the new documentary profile of consumer crusader and sometime third-party candidate Ralph Nader comes from playwright George Bernard Shaw:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Many applauded that attitude when Nader was first making his name as a crusader, combating the automobile industry on seatbelt and airbag issues, writing Unsafe at Any Speed, fighting for product labeling and generally creating the modern consumer movement. However, when some of his supporters considered his futile 2000 run for the presidency as a backhand guarantee of a George Bush victory, Nader's unreasonableness became even too much for them.

An Unreasonable Man is the informative documentary from Steve Skrovan (a writer on TV's Everybody Loves Raymond) and Henriette Mantel (a former Nader "Raider" and friend of the crusader). By combining archival footage and fresh interviews, they examine those pros and cons. And, despite Mantel's ties to Rader, the film seems fairly balanced.

As Mantel says in the press notes: "So many people have screamed at me since the 2000 election. This movie is for them. They can hate Ralph or love Ralph, I don't care. I just want them to know who he was, and who he is now. That way, if they still feel the need to yell at me, they are at least doing so from an informed standpoint."