Documentary by Pacho Velez and Sierra Petengill
I’ve seen many documentaries in my relatively short life here on earth. I think it’s fascinating to see real stories played out before my eyes on film, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a documentary quite like The Reagan Show. The filmmakers describe this film as “media archeology.” Okay, so what does that mean? Well, they go on to explain it like this: “just as classical sculpture provides insight into ancient Greek culture, and photographs are a stock-in trade of Victorian era cultural historians, the medium of the 1980s was video.” I found this approach to be fascinating and unlike any other found footage documentary I’ve seen before.
What Velez and Petengill ended up creating was a snapshot of the Reagan administration in the 1980s told exclusively through archival footage. But not only are there no talking heads in this film, there is also no outside narration or commentary. All of the audio and the story line come from the videos we see on screen. The footage is made up mainly of news broadcasts and Reagan’s own in-house White House Television Office team, but it also gives the audience a peek at some of his Hollywood films. It’s an amazing accomplishment and one that seems nearly impossible to render in a convincing and engaging manner, but it works.The film focuses primarily on President Reagan’s talks with rival and leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, surrounding the end of the Cold War. This is it is a classic tale of two enemies trying to outsmart and out-charm each other and it is great television. The more fascinating conflict, however, is to see President Reagan himself grapple with the struggle of being a performer and using the medium of video to his advantage on a political stage.
The film invites its viewers to take a closer look into Reagan’s persona, both as an actor and as a politician, and begs us to question how his reliance on this medium impacted his presidency.