Our Nixon
Penny Lane

Wednesday Jul 3, 2013

Socrates Sculpture Park
on the grass along the water
Long Island City
32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, NY 11106
Take the N or Q train to the Broadway stop in Queens and walk eight blocks west on Broadway (toward the East River) to the intersection of Vernon Boulevard.

8:00PMLive Music by Whale Belly
8:30PMFilm Begins


This Show Presented in Partnership With
Socrates Sculpture Park
Free Show
Free Show

Our Nixon (Penny Lane | USA | 84 min.)

As years pass, historic figures appear less human and more legend; Richard Nixon has gone all the way to caricature. For those on the right, Nixon represents the tough but dowdy old school conservatives; to the left, he’s “Tricky Dick,” the wily cheating bully. The real Nixon was a more complicated character. Reading about Nixon today may spark startling revelations about some of Nixon’s remarkably liberal policies, or his undeniably villainous abuses. But nothing will reveal the truth about this complex figure better than his own staff’s home movies, artfully crafted here by director Penny Lane.

Nixon famously bugged his own office and others (ostensibly for posterity, but also clearly for covert reconnaissance), but this recording mania was part of his downfall, resulting as it did in damning audio tapes. But unknown to most people, Nixon’s staff recorded hours of Super 8 film. This footage sat dormant for decades, and Penny Lane was the perfect artist to make use of this forgotten material.

Lane’s previous short documentaries “The Voyagers” and “The Commoners” (which played at Rooftop) display her knack for interweaving historical footage with personal details, addressing grand social themes through intimate perspectives. Here she humanizes Nixon and his staffers by revealing them as they saw themselves. With footage from parades and pop culture escapades, from international diplomatic meetings and secret behind-the-scenes consultations, Lane exposes the psyche of Nixon’s White House. With footage that is raw and beautiful, alternately comic and frightening, we watch from inside as the tone in the office shifts from being surprisingly open and tolerant to being dishonest and manipulative. We witness what seems to be the dawn of the age of irony, and spin, driven by a president who progressed from insecure to desperately needy. For our current age of constant self-documentation, and for history buffs who lived through the Nixon years, this astonishing film is an eye-opening treatise on the human act of making history.

- Mark Elijah Rosenberg

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.