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Revisiting Ronald Reagan

Fascinating portrait of former US president is much more than a Michael Moore-style takedown

06 October, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

George Bush Snr, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in The Reagan Show

THE REAGAN SHOW
Directed by Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez
Certificate: 18
☆☆

THIS documentary about the Reagan years draws solely on archive footage.

It is no Michael Moore takedown, no easy-to-please rant. Instead, directors Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez have gently told the story of an eight-year term. Reagan’s criminal domestic policies and underhand foreign adventures are played utterly straight, as is his economic theory whose doctrine is still wrecking the world today.

The use of film and audio recordings of his time in the White House was unprecedented: they harnessed more footage of the president during his term than the previous five incumbents together.

The result is a sensational archive that allows the historian to draw on primary sources and gauge the effect his presidency had.

Some of the comments he makes are just horrible. “Our aim is not to redistribute scarce resources,” Reagan claims as a means of justifying the Reagan­omics of offering tax cuts to the rich.

On defence spending – and remember he was the president who was willing to fund a Star Wars programme – he said: “Preparing for war is one of the most effective ways of keeping the peace.”

Other parts are rather sad, such as repeated takes of him trying to say the name of the Republican candidate for New Hampshire governorship, reminding that this is a person who was struck down by dementia in later years.

There was sabre-rattling with Colonel North and the Iran-Contra scandal, but we see Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev striking an arms reduction treaty later on in his second term, much to the alarm of Russian-phobic Republicans. We are shown how both leaders found common ground on a personal level that helped overcome the huge differences in political values they held.

Fascinating.

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