Our Brand Is Crisis

Film
ROCK THE VOTE Political candidate Goni stumps in the streets.
ROCK THE VOTE Political candidate Goni stumps in the streets.

Time Out says

An average marketing company might sell consumers anything from abacuses to zippers; if you’re in the spin-merchant business like Carville Greenberg Shrum, the only products you shill are politicians. Rachel Boynton’s documentary follows the Washington, D.C., consulting firm responsible for Bill Clinton’s White House bids as they help former Bolivian president Gonzalo “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada win reelection.

Considering that Goni’s reign of error during the ’90s sowed the seeds for much of that country’s current economic strife, the aloof capitalist isn’t exactly an easy sell to an angry public. But these peddlers of “progressive democracy” run the operation like an American political campaign—by focusing on slander, manipulating the media and putting empty-calorie talking points gleaned from focus groups into the candidate’s mouth.

Neither a blistering expos of the Democracy, Inc., industry nor a free pass for those who’ll pitch any politico for a steep fee, Our Brand Is Crisis simply examines the fallout of exporting our homegrown strategizing into foreign elections. Though the filmmaking itself never rises above the functional, frill-free style of a Frontline episode, the lack of sensational touches—no ironic music cues here, folks—lends the film an air of actual journalistic objectivity. Still, you wish Boynton’s fly-on-the-wall reportage had yielded something a tad deeper. The intersection of best intentions and bad influences is dutifully explored, but whether her subjects realize just what they’ve wrought remains a mystery. (Now playing; Film Forum.)—David Fear

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