Wade on Birmingham

Sidewalk 2008: All politics is local


Movie review: ‘Crawford’

By Stacy Vance

George and Laura Bush moved into Crawford, Texas, population 700, during his bid for the presidency in 1999. Soon after they settled in at the Prairie Chapel Ranch, the panoramas of open fields, endless skies, horses and haystacks of Crawford began to emerge in the national media.

CrawfordWhen introduced to the people of “Crawford,” we learn about their lives before we learn about their politics, allowing us to view them as individuals first. The documentary isn’t without some bias, but it’s ultimately a story about everyday people thrown into extraordinary circumstances.

The film screens Saturday at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.


Director David Modigliani takes us through life in Crawford during Bush’s terms in the White House. We see the President patting his neighbors on the shoulders, chopping cedar in his own back yard and giving the graduation speech to a packed Crawford High. Billboards of the couple’s faces welcome visitors, the perfect backdrop a simple American town. But things become a lot more complicated.

The cast of locals includes a Baptist preacher, high schoolers, a history teacher, domino-playing elders, a coffee shop owner, a horse farmer, and an entrepreneur selling Bush collectibles. It may seem like a stereotypical setup of simple characters in a simple town, but the residents here are much more complex.

As the residents welcome their new celebrity neighbor, they’re suddenly sharing a lunch table with dignitaries such as Vladimir Putin, Colin Powell and Birmingham native Condoleezza Rice. The influx of tourists and visitors creates an economic boom for Crawford’s depressed economy. The excitement level runs high, as this former nowhere becomes part of the political scene.

The heady celebrity diminishes as the Iraq war brings trouble into town. Cindy Sheehan and fellow protesters move in, determined to get attention on Bush’s home turf. The Crawford Peace House opens as a meeting hall for those in opposition to the war. The townfolk are thrust first-hand into the rising tensions.

History teacher Misti Turberville sees it as an opportunity for her students to question their beliefs. Two horse farmers become downright hostile with the protesters who won’t go away. This diversity surprisingly emerges as a microcosm of what’s happening around the nation, making for an absorbing storyline.

Notably absent in later years is Bush himself, appearing mostly as the creepy lifesize likenesses all around town. At times, the filmmakers stray from presidential pursuits to capture some personal events with the residents. Though the crew remains behind the camera, I get the impression they became more like neighbors in Crawford than the president ever did.

“Crawford” provides a different take on the Bush administration: through the eyes of a town that becomes accountable for a famous neighbor it hardly knows.

So will a “For Sale” sign appear at the Prairie Chapel Ranch soon? I picture the residents — supporters and otherwise — sitting on their now-quiet front porches, wondering the same thing.

stacy vanceStacy Vance — who worked as an actress and crew member on the Birmingham-based feature “Killing Christian” — is a sales rep for Raypress Corporation, a local specialty label company.

“Crawford” will screen at 6 p.m. Saturday at McWane Science Center.


• • •

Action! Complete Sidewalk Festival coverage.

Leave a Yip

Subscribe without commenting