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Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Local opening date: 11/9/2007
Reviewed by Diane Carson
Though he's better known for his terrifying Silence of the Lambs and his moving Philadelphia, Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme also has an endearing, deceptively effortless approach to documentaries. He's proved this with My Cousin Bobby and Stop Making Sense, and he's done it again with Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains.

In it, Demme takes us along, like a fly on the wall, on Jimmy Carter's extensive fall 2006 book tour for his controversial Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid. An amazingly energetic 82-year-old, this 39th President of the United States has gained in stature with his Nobel Peace Prize, his involvement with Habitat for Humanity, and his work certifying democratic elections in many places on numerous occasions. And he's very aware of exactly what he invites with this latest of his 21 books. Carter says he wants it "accurate and provocative," and he musters the facts and research to support both aims.

Demme introduces and grounds Carter in his beloved Plains, Georgia. Background establishes his family's history there and finds him back for a BBQ, preaching to his church, and riding bikes with Rosalynn. But the heart and soul of Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains is his analysis of his experiences in Gaza and the West Bank, and his hopes brokering the 1976 Camp David accord between Israel and Egypt. Still pursuing that elusive peace, he appears on dozens of programs: Jay Leno, Larry King, NPR, Al Franken, Tavis Smiley, etc. He's questioned both calmly and confrontationally, and retains his cool, calm approach while honestly acknowledging hurt when unjustifiably pilloried. Challenged about his choice of the word "apartheid" regarding Palestine. Carter defines it as "the mandatory separation of two people and the incarceration of one by the other." And in defending his thoughtful position, Carter prompts further consideration of the intractable and tragic situation between Israel and Palestine.

Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains
runs two hours, but it feels much shorter as we're engaged by a man who listens and speaks from the heart. More such calm political examination would do wonders for all of us. At Landmark's Plaza Frontenac.

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