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January 18 – LA Premiere of Crawford, a new documentary by David Modigliani


Sunday January 18, 2009, 7:00 pm

At the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Crawford, A Documentary Film by David Modigliani – The Farewell Tour
Los Angeles Premiere!
Filmmaker David Modigliani in person!

Crawford (2008, color, sound, 74 minutes) January 2009 will be a time of reflection for the entire country. As America looks to a future of change, the pundits will provide their own spin on what the last 8 years have meant.

Crawford, an extraordinary documentary by first-time filmmaker David Modigliani, provides a unique perspective on the Bush presidency: through the eyes of the 705 residents of Crawford, Texas.

“Poignant …colorful!” – Variety
“Richly compelling” – Premiere Magazine
“Revelatory: a deeply committed piece of high-def storytelling!” –New York Sun

“Small Town Values” … big time politics’ winning slogan. But does the political machine, so desirous of this wholesome image, actually value the small town itself?

In 1999, then Governor George W. Bush bought a ranch in the one-stoplight town of Crawford, Texas, calling it “home” just in time to set his sights on the White House. Having invented Bush’s “folksy image,” the campaign’s victory thrusts Crawford onto the world stage and an insular community of barely 700 explodes overnight.

While the high school band plays the inauguration and the Baptist pastor declares a miracle, Crawfordites sell souvenirs hand over fist, finding themselves nearly trampled under the heels of the international press corps, patriotic tourists and boomtown opportunists. Then, four and a half years into Bush’s tenure, Cindy Sheehan and her peace movement arrive at the doorstep of the “Western White House.” Crawford takes center stage.

As 20,000 impassioned protesters and counter-protesters battle on Crawford’s tiny streets, the symbol of the “small town” begins to change. Exacerbated tensions place pressure on the community as well as on the liberties Americans take for granted. And after seven years of this political stagecraft, a President’s and a community’s choices have an even graver human impact. Left to deal with the aftermath, the real people of Crawford are changed forever.

Now comes Crawford, an often funny, deeply human story told by unforgettable characters. As witness to one man’s (and his spin doctor’s) decision to intertwine his life with the real small town America, the film ultimately becomes a microcosm of a nation in flux — a unique and poignant reflection on the Bush era.

Some of the Characters:
Norma Nelson-Crow – Norma returns home to open a successful souvenir shop. She becomes a master at marketing all things “Crawford.” Business has grown in a once-dead town, but what do the protests mean for her store?
Ken Judy – Ken is Vice President of Crawford’s Bank and a hardcore Bush Supporter who doesn’t care for the media’s choice of backdrops. He churns as the small town’s valued insularity explodes. Can they get it back?
Mike Murphy – Mike is a conservative Baptist preacher who sees Bush’s arrival as an answered prayer. His witty phrases on the church marquee make international papers, but how does will deal with the film’s shattering tragedy?
Robert Murphy – Robert coaches the Division 2A state champion Crawford Pirates. A trip to the White House isn’t a bad motivational tool, but what does the teams motto — “everybody same” – mean for the other kids in town?
Leon Smith –Leon runs Crawford’s newspaper, the Lonestar Iconoclast, which endorses Bush in 2000, but then famously endorses his opponent, John Kerry in 2004, sending reverberations with dire consequences through the town.
Ricky Smith- Ricky is a horse-breaker who remembers when you could trade guns in the school parking lot—“now there is a tourist under every rock.” It’s all novel until land values skyrocket and Cindy Sheehan , who “should be hung for treason,” comes to town. How does he protect his values and his way of life?
Misti Tubeville – Misty is a progressive-minded high school teacher who was born in Crawford and has returned to teach its kids. How does she protect freethinking in a conservative town and what does it mean for her family?
Tom Warlick – Tom is a pro-Bush 16-year-old in the Crawford High School Band. But, when the band answers Bush’s invitation to the 2000 inauguration in Washington, the crowds of protesters Warlick sees send him to the Internet with new ideas. As his political outlook changes and he gets called a “terrorist” in town, he battles to maintain his identity.

Even some of his greatest admirers in Crawford freely admit that Bush, then governor of Texas, purchased a spread near the small town (population 705) in 1999 primarily to enhance his folksy, regular-guy image before his presidential campaign. His arrival — and, later, his declared victory in the disputed 2000 election — quickly proves to be an economic boom for a community that never fully recovered from droughts and downturns of the 1960s. Indeed, the local Baptist minister goes so far as to suggest Bush’s choice of Crawford just might be a miracle.

As tourists and journalists flock to the area during Bush’s first administration, Crawford merchants enjoy a financial windfall. (A proud souvenir store owner says Christmas ornaments emblazoned with Bush’s image are big sellers.) Still, there’s some seriocomic grumbling by image-conscious residents about how Crawford is presented to the outside world. These folks are especially annoyed by the many TV newscasters who repeatedly shoot in front of the same faux-rustic backdrop, a tumble-down barn actually several miles away from Bush’s property.

After the invasion of Iraq, divisions among Crawford residents grow more pronounced. As the president’s popularity plummets, tourism decreases. (“The novelty’s gone,” a merchant sighs as she prepares to board up her business.) “Crawford” ends with a toting up of tragedies, including a suicide, and an airing of resentments, counterbalanced by the testimonies of those residents who remain supportive of their famous neighbor.

To his credit, Modigliani strives to present Crawford residents of all persuasions — even those most infuriated by the peace activists — in an uncondescending fashion. Bush himself remains a distant figure, glimpsed only in news footage and homemovies shot by locals. In the context of this doc, he seems far less real, less substantial, than the people whose lives he has affected. Aud is left to decide whether this disparity is accurately reflective of a nationwide disconnect. – JOE LEYDON, Variety

“Crawford,” David Modigliani’s documentary about life in the small town President Bush adopted as the site of his “Western White House,” had enormous potential for cheap laughs at the expense of Red State Americana. Instead, it’s revelatory: a deeply committed piece of high-def storytelling that anatomizes this community of 800, showing how the arrival of their new neighbor shook the townspeople to their roots, polarizing and politicizing lives that never asked to be in the glare of the world media. The filmmaker’s sympathetic ear for a diverse and highly eccentric array of voices makes the narrative’s surprising twists more effectively moving, as Crawford’s role as a focal point for peace activists, such as Cindy Sheehan, sparks conflicts that reflect the national division over Mr. Bush and the “war on terror.” – Steve Dollar, The New York Sun

What continues to resonate with me about “Crawford” is how absolutely objective the film truly is. Sure, one would expect such a stance from a documentary, but it’s not so often the case. Many docs nowadays pick their perspective, commit to it, and the other stuff, dissenting opinions, etc, becomes far more peripheral. With “Crawford,” the right mingles with the left, no one is declared a winner and the only thing that truly becomes apparent is how victimized one small town in Texas has become.

“Crawford” is a documentary about the small town in Texas where President George W. Bush, prior to his presidency, decided to take up residence. As the days prior to the 2000 election rolled on, Crawford found itself bustling with campaign activity, as Bush perpectuated his “down-home” persona direct from his ranch. Upon his election, and re-election, Crawford continually found itself a tourist haven for those eager to be near the home of the Leader of the Free World. Then, you know, the Iraq War happened.

All of a sudden, it’s not all conservative smiles and football, as Cindy Sheehan and her gang of 20,000+ war protestors move into Crawford and set up camp alongside Bush’s ranch. As the protests intensify, the Crawford townsfolk (ranking at only 705 when the film began) find themselves in the middle of an aggravating environment, stuck between their famous neighbor, those that hate him and the media that wants to film every second of it. Eventually, however, the protestors move on, the media focus changes and, as Bush’s popularity plummets, so too does the economic climate of the once booming tourist mecca. It’s a small town economical rise-and-fall, all within the span of 8 years.

As I mentioned, the film does a brilliant job with staying objective and focusing more on the plight of the town then the politics of right or left. Sure, there’s the more open-minded teacher who finds herself at odds with most of the town, but we also get to hear from the other people within the town, including some of its oldest residents, that aren’t drawing party lines so much as trying to keep their town as strong as it was before it became a political circus. It was refreshing, and the ultimate compliment to director David Modigliani, to have such a politically charged environment delivered to the viewer with such an even hand. – Mark Bell, Film Threat

The Filmmakers:

DAVID MODIGLIANI (Producer/Director) makes film and theater at the intersection of the personal and political. Texas Monthly named him as one of four “next great Texas directors.” He recently concluded his three-year fellowship at the Michener Center for Writers with the Austin production of his play, WIRELESS-LESS (nominated by the Austin Critics Table for “Best New Play.”) He has a BA from Harvard University and an MFA from UT Austin. CRAWFORD is his first feature-length film.

MATT NAYLOR (Editor/Associate Producer) edits the annual five-part Students of the World documentary series which airs at the Clinton Global Initiative. 501 Post, Austin’s premiere post-production facility, handles everything from national TV spots for CBS sports to groundbreaking films like Robert Rodriguez’ SIN CITY.

DAVID RICE (Composer/Associate Producer) has built a reputation for authentic, organic music since releasing solo albums on Justice and Columbia Records. He co-wrote the theme to ABC’s hit sitcom HOPE AND FAITH and PBS’ ENDLESS FEAST and has licensed dozens of songs to TV and films including MATCHSTICK MEN and ROSWELL. His collaborations with Mandy Moore have earned him two platinum records. In partnership with Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records he scores the annual Students of the World documentary series. He is executive producer at JSM Music.

DEBORAH EVE LEWIS (Co-Director of Photography) holds documentary feature credits such as P.O.V.’s LAST MAN STANDING (Paul Stekler), First Run Features’ WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE- George W. Bush and the Rise of the Religious Right in America (David Van Taylor & Calvin Scaggs) and four ITVS-funded projects, including TROOP 1500 (Ellen Spiro and Karen Bernstein) named documentary of the year by the National Board of Review.

RYAN PAVELCHIK (Co-Director of Photography) has published in MUSED, RANT, SPECTRUM, THE CATALYST and PLOUGHSHARES. His photography has appeared in MUSED and American Theatre Magazine. His plays have been produced by the Studio Theatre at UCSB, The Actor’s Gang in Los Angeles, the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the Salvage Vanguard Theatre in Austin, where STATIC won an Austin Critics’ Circle Award. He is currently a professor in the visual performing arts department at California State University San Marcos. CRAWFORD is his first feature film.

TANYA SCHURR (Associate Producer) is a stage manager and producer based at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is pursuing a BA in Theatre & Business. She works in multiple areas of production, from opera & dance to film to university-wide events.

EMILY HARRISON (Designer/Associate Producer) creates the graphics for Live Action Projects and its individual productions. A former editor of the HARVARD LAMPOON, she is the photography editor and a contributing writer at SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.