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Laramie Movie Scope:
Courting Condi

Inside a fictional framework is a portrait of an African-American princess

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2008) Though Devin Ratray's courtship of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, via his musical video "love discs," is a fictional framework for director/writer/producer Sebastian Doggart's "musical-docu-tragi-comedy," within its invention is an authentic portrait of an African-American princess, "who chose power over love."

Devin, a slovenly overweight Caucasian young man who lives with his parents in New York City, believes his sharing a passion for music may afford him an opportunity with Condi - "I just can't believe she hasn't been signed up yet" - who began playing piano when she was three.

He and Sebastian fly to Birmingham, Alabama, where Condi, a woman of faith and intellect, was born on November 14th, 1954, (sharing the same birth date with Devin's mother) and resided until 1969; they interview biographers, various friends and neighbors from her childhood, including Denise McNair's father. A schoolmate from kindergarten, Denise had been one of the four girls killed in the bomb blast at the 16th Street Baptist Church.

Next the musician and filmmaker arrive in Denver where Miss Rice, two years ahead of her classmates (for the first time in her life among whites in a classroom) graduated from high school and attended college, attributing her academic success to her upbringing; her ambition was to become a concert pianist or competitive ice skater. Her college piano teacher says she developed good mechanics but resisted his efforts to draw out an emotional commitment to her keyboard performance.

Life being too short for regrets, Condi leaves behind the concert hall and ice rink for the global stage of political science through the inspiration of her international-politics professor Joseph Korbel, taking his cue of examining the world through the eyes of a realist.

The one time she nearly made a commitment to a man ("she wasn't going to have sex before marriage") occurred with Rick Upchurch, a member of the Denver Broncos, who speaks on camera (with Devin sulking) of her having "class" and "poise." Instead of becoming his bride, Condi (a Democrat until the late '70s) accepted an offer to work briefly in Washington, DC.

In 1981 she moved to Palo Alto, California, taking a position on the faculty at Stanford, hired with affirmative-action funds. Devin and Sebastian have a brief conversation with Condi's mother Clara. Pulling the ladder up after herself, Condi as provost demonstrated her toughness with budget and staff cuts, including the popular Hispanic dean Cecilia Burciaga, who translates "Condoleezza" from its Spanish origin as "with pain."

Interludes of Sebastian trying to get Devin to strip naked on a beach, a contentious conference with award-winning composer Carol Connors (Devin shows displeasure with two songs she written for him), Devin's dad showing him an article in The National Inquirer claiming Condi's a lesbian, and a session with Republican consultant Frank Luntz (along with hearing comments from a focus group) that transforms Devin's grooming and sartorial appearance ("Nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice," so the sideburns and chin whiskers go), precede the now stylishly suited and clean-shaven suitor's standing before the White House with a group of enthusiastic supporters cheering him on.

(However, the Secretary of State's office in the State Department is located in another building; Devin and Sebastian are refused entry into the Watergate Towers where Condi resides.)

Initially Brent Scowcroft brought Condi into President George H.W. Bush's inner circle from whence she became acquainted with George W., sharing his enthusiasm for sports and Christian faith; she then tutored the Texas Governor in foreign affairs during his presidential campaign.

Author Laura Flanders begins to deflate Devin's idealized view of Condi, who became Bush's National Security Adviser during his first term: in Nigeria, for instance, she "picked empire and colonialism over being a concert pianist," putting corporate interests ahead of ordinary people's.

A weak head of NSA when in competition with the likes of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of State Colin Powell, in the opinion of Lawrence Wilkerson, formerly chief of staff for Sec Powell, Condi "joined the unholy alliance" to invade Iraq. Another writer, Philip Shenon, describes her "incompetence and negligence" in ignoring warnings preceding 9/11 of al-Qaeda's intentions.

She also ignored the Commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness," in denying that the Bush administration engaged in torture (e.g., waterboarding and fingernail extractions) and extraordinary renditions with secret prisons overseas; rather, she signed off on such with the exhortation: "This is your baby, go do it."

She defended and granted immunity to the Blackwater contractors (hired by the State Dept for security in Iraq) accused of killing 17 innocent Iraqis in Baghdad (though since the filming six contractors may eventually be tried for their involvement in the shootings). Christopher Anders accuses her of having "massively committed war crimes."

In short, she abrogated her responsibility to challenge the president, discarding her realist training for Bush's fantastical idealism.

By the end, Devin has lost that loving feeling for his princess.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)