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12 Movies About Elections We Think You Should See, In Honor of Election of 2012

By Indiewire | Indiewire November 5, 2012 at 1:13PM

In honor of the 2012 Presidential election, Indiewire's offering 12 films about elections we think you should see (if you haven't already). Though clearly not exhaustive (there's a lot of great election-themed movies out there), it's a nice mix of narrative and documentary films from the past and the near-present, many of which offer insights into the issues surrounding this year's Obama/Romney showdown.

"Primary" (1960)
In 1960, American politics sure looked different.  The television debates of that year are infamous for the difference between the eventual Republican and Democratic candidates (Nixon and Kennedy, respectively) on television and radio.  Before those debates, documentary pioneer Robert Drew was busy documenting the Democratic candidates -- Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy -- during the Democratic primary process.  In the 50-minute film "Primary," Drew used the new sync sound camera to allow him to follow the candidates all over the campaign trail.  Made for LIFE, "Primary" immerses the viewer in the campaign trail for both candidates.  Though of course Kennedy and Humphrey both look quite postured throughout the film, the film's rich depiction of the campaign trail is refreshing in an era of staged "reality" television and political campaigns that guard candidates from the media. [Bryce J. Renninger]

"Primary Colors" (1998)
Mike Nichols and his longtime collaborator Elaine May's smart and very funny adaptation of the novel "Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics" by TIME Magazine columnist and former Democratic consultant Joe Klein, offers a biting (and somewhat fictionalized) behind-the-scenes take on Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign in 1992. Rather than focus on Bill and Hilary (Jack and Susan Stanton in the film), "Primary Colors" follows Henry Burton (Adrian Lester), a young and hopeful campaign recruit, made privy to Jack's philandering ways and innate ability to charm anyone he encounters on his trail. John Travolta does an uncanny Clinton impersonation as the presidential hopeful, but like Nichols' film, his performance isn't merely surface level. [Nigel M. Smith]

"Street Fight" (2005)
"Street Fight," the documentary to first put filmmaker Marshall Curry on the map, chronicles the hard-fought campaign for mayor of Newark, New Jersey, by Corey Booker, a young community activist who attempted to unseat longtime mayor Sharpe James. Despite being seven years old, "Street Fight" remains relevant by exposing many of the issues plaguing minority communities in Newark and the harsh tactics used in politics. The film earned Curry his first Oscar nomination for Best Documentary; he got a second nod last year for "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front." [Nigel M. Smith]

"The War Room" (1993)
Back when the presidential election was warming up in March, The Criterion Collection released their restored transfer of "The War Room," Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker's seminal behind-the scenes documentary on Bill Clinton's revolutionary (and winning) campaign. As the title suggest, "The War Room" doesn't center on Clinton, but on his crack team of consultants, including James Carville and George Stephanopoulos who went on to become media stars in their own rights shortly following Clinton's inauguration. Be sure to catch the sequel to the 1993 doc, "The Return of the War Room," shot some 16 years later, also included on the Criterion release. [Nigel M. Smith]

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