Giuliani Time
Cinema Libre // Unrated // $24.95 // November 21, 2006
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 15, 2007
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The Movie:

It's been a few years since I've been to New York City (the hotel I stayed at on the West side near the river was $99 a night in 2003; it is now often as much as $280 a night), but certainly have very fond memories of the trip. I actually spent very little time in Times Square (which I found rather beautiful early in the morning when the sun was coming up and few were around, not as much in the middle of the day) and would just walk around the city for 9-10 hours a day. The city was wonderful and certainly had changed a lot since I had visited as a little kid.

Many credit Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for the clean-up and some ("Family Guy", etc.) have used joked about the tactics that the former Mayor used to turn the city into what it is today. Director Kevin Keating (a former cinematographer for such acclaimed documentaries as "When We Were Kings" and "Harlan County, USA")'s documentary attempts to get underneath Giuliani's work and show (this is a one-sided film) a darker side of the former Mayor and his surprising tactics in trying to clean up the town.

Keating's film opens with a look at the mob ties that Giuliani's father had. While I suppose this does provide a picture of Giuliani's childhood, it doesn't really add to the overall look at Giuliani (and it's not tied in particularly well) as much as the discussion of his schooling and general upbringing later in childhood does. From there, we see Giuliani's rapid rise, including a position in 1981 as the Associate Attorney General (at 36, the youngest AAG in history) in the Regan administration, where he supported the decision to turn away boatloads of Haitain immigrants who were escaping Baby Doc Duvalier's oppressive regime.

Guided at many points by Village Voice editor Wayne Barrett, Keating's documentary then goes through the Mayor's "zero tolerance" policies and looks at what began to become (in the eyes of many) an oppressive police force (complaints of police brutality were up sharply, and two horrific incidents occured involving Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo - during Louima's torture, one of the police offers reportedly shouted, "It's Giuliani time!", hence the title of the film.)

The city's "broken windows" policy (essentially, stop misdimeanors and larger crimes will then reduce as a result) was a zero tolerance effort aimed at cleaning up the city and when the city's crime rates did drop (although the documentary argues that the crime rates were underreported), but the documentary questions how the percentages were calculated and offers the note that crime decreased during the time period in most major cities and that the crime rate was already heading down when the mayor went into office. The documentary also notes that Giuliani wanted all the credit: when the police commissioner at the time of the crime rate drop took the spotlight on the cover of Time magazine, he was suddenly resigning shortly after.

The "workfare" program that went into place did not provide any job training to try and get the people to possibly ever move up into better jobs. The workers worked alongside city workers doing the same tasks, and were paid quite a bit less - 30% below the poverty line. There are also many First Amendment issues brought up in the picture, such as the fact that thousands upon thousands of pieces of art were taken away and destroyed. The artists went to the courts and they ruled in their favor. Giuliani's administration went to the Supreme Court with a ridiculous appeal that was also turned down. Giuliani threatened to take away funding from the Brooklyn Museum of Art when he deemed art displayed there to be offensive. There was also the halted Senate campaign, as Giuliani stepped down from a Senate run when faced with competition from Hillary Clinton. That was followed by reports of an affair.

"Giuliani Time" is one-sided, but it does present some interesting and shocking bits of information that I - as someone who has been to New York and thinks it's a wonderful city, but doesn't live there - wasn't aware of. The film certainly could have used more time presenting the other side though, as all we get here are a few short pro-Giuliani tidbits, including one from Trump about Giuliani that looks old enough to appear as if it's from at least pre-"Apprentice" days. The film is also long and rather unfocused, as well; at 118 minutes, the picture could have been tightened.

Giuliani was presented as Time's "Man of the Year" after the events of 9/11 and is now sent to try and run for President. "Giuliani Time" is a one-sided film, but one that presents a "take it or leave it"-style rebuttal to the image of Giuliani that many who don't live in New York were presented with and an overview of the negative aspects of Giuliani's time as mayor of NYC.


VIDEO: "Giuliani Time" is presented by Cinema Libre in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Picture quality is about as good as one can expect from a low-budget documentary such as this, which mixes in crisp interview footage with tons of archive footage of varying quality from varying years. The footage generally appears to be in fine shape, although some clips do look rather hazy/soft. Colors appeared natural and crisp.

SOUND: A clear stereo soundtrack.

EXTRAS: This is the only disappointing aspect of the DVD. For a film like this one, I'd expect deleted scenes and a discussion of the film from the director. All we get here are trailers.

Final Thoughts: One-sided, rather unfocused and overlong by about 15 minutes, "Giuliani Time" still does offer a mostly interesting look at the negative aspects of Giuliani's career thus far. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, but limited extras. New Yorkers are likely well aware of the information this documentary has to offer, but those outside of NYC who are less familiar with the subject and interested should rent it.

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