Films zoom in on U.S. politics

Several films dealing with American politics and social issues were premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

“Bobby” features a star-studded cast, including Martin Sheen, Harry Belafonte, Demi Moore and Anthony Hopkins, to name a few. Several intertwined stories, inserted with archival footage of the time, center around the lives of employees and guests who happened to be in the Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel the fateful night Robert Kennedy was assassinated.

Filming took place in the actual hotel just before it was demolished. Stories include a young couple who married to keep the groom out of the Vietnam War, a racist kitchen manager dealing with a multiracial crew, campaign managers dealing with the drug scene, an old doorman who reminisces with a fellow retiree about the hotel’s history, all taking place as Kennedy is arriving to give the final speech of his life.

The film is an engrossing layer of stories with superb acting and direction by Emilio Estevez. All the actors were so committed to the story they offered to work for scale. Many had known Kennedy personally. Martin Sheen had taken his 6-year-old son, Emilio, to the Ambassador Hotel days after the tragedy and the memory stayed with Estevez and inspired him in the making of this film.

“Bobby” closes with a hopeful statement for peace and justice reminding us of the charismatic Robert Kennedy who had dreams and plans for this country that were never realized.

“What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis,” said RFK in his last speech on June 5, 1968. “And that what has been going on with the United States over the period of the last three years — the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society … whether it’s between Blacks and whites, between the poor and the more affluent, or between age groups or over the war in Vietnam — that we can start to work together again. We are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running.”

One of the many new documentaries about American politics focuses on the 2004 national elections and the pivotal role of the Ohio vote. No president has won without carrying the state since 1960.

“So Goes the Nation” analyses the flow of money and resources and the people in both campaigns. Charges of fraud are examined, but the fundamental focus is on the process of the election, politicians and activists in what the world has come to expect is the most democratic electoral process. Many know otherwise. This film serves a purpose but there are several others dealing with the issues of election fraud, voting machine irregularity and outright manipulation of the vote.

“Lake of Fire” by Tony Kaye (“American History X”) is a 20-year project and the definitive film study of the intense abortion debate. Doctors are murdered, women die from failed abortion attempts, Roe v. Wade is being challenged, and there are extremists who would like to return our society to the Dark Ages. They are all studied in close depth in this unparalleled documentary. Emotionally charged and amazingly evenhanded with impassioned pleas from both sides of the battle, this film challenges the viewer to find a resolve in this heated national debate.