A reedited version of a documentary that originally aired on the BBC in England, Bush Family Fortunes – The Best Democracy Money Can Buy is writer/reporter Greg Palast's investigative look at how George W. Bush came to power and the unusual circumstances surrounding that climb.
The emphasis of the first part of the documentary is on Bush's admittance into the Texas Air Guard, which effectively ensured he would not see active duty in Vietnam, which is what happened to many other men his age during this time period. Palast questions many of the details surrounding Bush's military service record and even finds an administrative official who swears on camera that any incriminating evidence in his file was shredded to avoid making the President (then Governor of Texas) look bad. There are also people interviewed on camera who claim that Bush didn't even show up for duty in the air guard, which according to military practice, should be grounds for selective service.
Palast takes great care in providing some seriously damning evidence surrounding the controversy of the Florida vote count that finally decided that Bush did beat Al Gore. He has documents proving that many legitimate voters were prevented from casting their ballots based on false accusations of a criminal past. The majority of these voters were of African American descent and were Democrats, and their numbers outdo the margin by which Bush defeated Gore by a fairly significant amount. When Palast tries to have a Florida official account for this seemingly illegal and unethical practice, he leaves the room in a huff and refuses to look at Palast's documentation or answer his questions.
There's also a lot of time spent examining the Bush family ties to the Saudi Arabians and to the Bin Laden family respectively. Though Palast makes a point of stating that he found no evidence to back up claims that the Bush administration knew about the September 11, 2001 attacks ahead of time, he is able to trace a money trail from Bush's business endeavors back to Saudi investment money, Bin Laden capital specifically. There's also mention made that the F.B.I. had known for at least five years prior to the date that al Queda had been planning to use American passenger planes to destroy a building of great financial significance at that up until the end of the Clinton administration, they had been monitoring these types of things.
If any of this material sounds similar to Michael Moore's recent incendiary documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, well you're on the right track. The two films have much in common and follow a very similar path, though seeing as Bush Family Fortunes was made a little earlier there is obviously less emphasis on the war in Iraq and the fallouts that have occurred from that war.
While there are a lot of gray areas surrounding much of the documentation and events depicted in this documentary, enough of it is conclusive that it shouldn't fail to raise some red flags with even the most staunch Republican. Regardless of where your political persuasions lie it's always good to hear both sides of the story and to get as much information as you can so that you can make up your own mind as to where you stand.
The 1.78.1 widescreen image is made up of old documents, photographs, and news clips as well as new footage shot by Palast's crew comprised of interviews, cutaways, and other material. The newer footage, though shot on video, looks quite good with a reasonably high level of detail and only some minor compression artifacts visible in a couple of scenes. Some of the older footage is a bit faded, some is a tad grainy, but all of it is at least watchable and you can't really fault the transfer for making the older footage look like older footage. Aside from the compression artifacts, there aren't any really noticeable issues with this transfer.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix is perfectly fine for a film that is almost entirely dialogue based save for the background music (supplied by Moby) that swells up during some of the scenes. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion or anything like that though some of the older archive footage does exhibit some instances of less than perfect quality. Aside from that though, while the audio isn't exactly home theater demonstration material, it doesn't need to be and the quality of the audible portion of this release is perfectly acceptable. Optional English closed captioning is also provided.
First up is a video interview with Greg Palast that runs for approximately ten minutes. Palast discusses the problems he's had in his American journalistic career because of the material he's chosen to cover (using the term 'electronic Berlin wall' to describe the way his material has been largely unpublished in his homeland). Oddly enough, he finds plenty of work in Europe and is a regular reporter for the BBC (widely recognized as one of the most legitimate news agencies worldwide). He talks about his work and his journalistic tactics as well as some of the research that has gone into his projects and it is a very appropriate companion piece to the feature documentary.
In addition to the interview, there are also numerous document reproductions that are accessible to those viewers who are DVD-Rom equipped. Pop the disc in your computer and you're able to look at copies of many of the letter and documents cited and used as the basis for many of the theories discussed in the film.
Bush Family Fortunes is an interesting look at some of the weirdness surrounding the current administration that is packaged nicely with decent audio and video and a few interesting extra features. While the film isn't flawless (some of the theories lack detail) it is interesting and political theorists will enjoy it. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.