Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 April, 2008, 12:00am

Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains

Starring: Jimmy Carter

Director: Jonathan Demme

The film: At face value this is a road trip with the ex-US president as he launches his latest book - Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid - and then deals with the controversy it stirs up.

But there's more to it than that. Essentially it's about Carter, but it's more about what he wants to promote. And, chiefly, that's establishing dialogue in an effort to seek the truth and to seek peace. Between people and between nations.

That's the mission statement for the production company too - they want their film to kickstart social change. So it's a given that director Jonathan Demme isn't going to dig too deep into Carter.

What he does is reveal a man driven to right what he sees as the wrong with the world. Demme is obviously taken by Carter and by the simple, straightforward way he goes about his business.

And you will be too. Even at the age of 83 he seems tireless, jumping from country to country, city to city, issue to issue and seemingly doing a whole world of good.

But it's his manner that makes the greatest impact. And Demme's cameras capture it all up close and very personal.

Carter is remarkable for just how measured he is, at all times, despite the firestorm he walks into when he brings up questions about the relationship between Israel and Palestine. He never seems rushed and Demme pushes this image on us time and again.

Carter looking out the car window as the world rushes by, taking time to speak to a child at a barbecue, holding his temper as the same issues are raised about his book, by people who have obviously not read it.

You end up wondering how history has painted him as a relatively lame duck leader when in power. And how different he seems to the world leaders of today.

There's never any question which side of the fence Demme sits, or that the film has not been made by people who admire Carter and the work he continues to do.

But there's never any question that it's not good work either or that Carter is a man for the ages.

The extras: Bonus scenes provide more of the same, but add to the Carter legend while the featurette on how they pieced the soundtrack together reveals an incredible merging of musical talent, from the Middle East to the Americas, led by singer-composer Gillian Welch.

Demme gives them an outline and they turn it into something wonderful. The director is joined on the commentary by producer Neda Armian and they give an open and honest appraisal of how - and why - the film was made.

The verdict: An intimate and impressive portrait of a man who really does care.