Filmmaker uses Nixon aides’ home movies to create the layered documentary, ‘Our Nixon’

Richard NixonHolding a screening at the Watergate might indicate that the forthcoming documentary, “Our Nixon,” was just another scandal flick, but filmmaker Penny Lane tried to make that the least of it.

Instead, she and producer Brian Frye showed another side of President Nixon’s “henchmen”–Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin–using the aides’ own Super 8 home movies.

Lane, who was in Washington Thursday night to discuss the doc with the Atlantic’s Steve Clemons, explained that a friend of Frye’s tipped them off to the existence of the films more than a decade ago. The reels and reels of silent footage had been confiscated by the FBI during the Watergate investigation and tucked away in the National Archives.

“I’m surprised that no one ever [heard of them],” said Lane. “It was just so exciting, these were silent home movies.”

Lane layered the ameteur films with the White House Nixon tapes and music from the era. While Watergate and the Vietnam War protests were discussed, so were happier events, like the aides goofing around at the White House Easter Egg Roll or accompanying the president on his trip to China. The effect makes the aides more human than henchmen.

“It certainly complicated the kind of stereotypical, black and white, version of history that I had grown up with,” Lane said. “When you combined it with the dramatic irony inherent in the film–where you know the end of the story and they don’t–sometimes that’s funny and sometimes that’s just heartbreakingly sad.”

Lane said as she spent more time with the footage the more she grew to like the characters, all of whom served time for their Watergate dealings.

“I cared about them alot,” Lane said. “I felt like John Ehrlichman was a very sensitive, artistic, interesting, intellectual person who had been flattened into this one photograph of him with his lower lip sticking out during the Watergate hearings and I just thought, ‘what a disservice to a life.’”

Lane certainly wasn’t a Nixon scholar before making the film. “I was like, ‘why did they shoot so much in China?’ Seriously. I have to out myself,” she said to laughs “Brian had to be like, ‘that was a big deal.’” And after, she said she still didn’t have a strong opinion on the scandal. “I just think it’s a tragedy, no question, and you can explore the human dimension of it in a way that hadn’t been done.”

“Our Nixon” opens in major markets starting August 30.

Comments

Polititainment

Clooney: Release 'The Interview' online

George Clooney may have the most awesomely toothy response to the Sony Pictures cyberattack that forced the movie studio to pull the film "The Interview" from its December 25 release.

Jon Stewart might ruin your childhood

Jon Stewart brought his nightmare-inducing recurring character “Gitmo” on the show to talk about the normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba.

Colbert's embargo on the Vatican

Colbert had to chide his audience Wednesday night for getting excited about making “Cuba more libre.”

Megyn Kelly on 'The Interview'

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly told Jimmy Kimmel she found Sony’s decision to pull “The Interview” after threats of a terrorist attack "deeply troubling.”

Romney's suggestion for 'The Interview'

Mitt Romney has an idea to turn "The Interview" movie fiasco into a win for everybody.

White House

District court declares Obama’s executive action on immigration unconstitutional
A federal court in Pennsylvania declared parts of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration unconstitutional Tuesday. Judge Arthur J. Schwab, sitting in the western district of Pennsylvania, said presidents do have the power to use discretion in deciding how to enforce laws, but found that Obama’s recent executive action went much further than that.  He said Obama was writing […]
Obama administration extends Pell grants to juvenile offenders
The Obama administration has set out new guidelines that allow for students sentenced to juvenile correctional facilities to be eligible for federal Pell grants. The U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice sent out a joint release Monday that clarified an earlier law. Congress in 1994 prohibited inmates at federal and state prisons from receiving Pell Grants […]
White House denies report that it wants to delay release of CIA torture report

The White House is insisting it wants the Senate Intelligence Committee to release its report on CIA torture practices, despite a report that Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to scuttle it.

Kate visits NYC kids; Prince William joins Obama

NEW YORK (AP) — Prince William's wife, Kate, wrapped Christmas gifts, helped preschoolers decorate picture frames and left an impression of a down-to-earth royal as she toured a child development center Monday with New York City's first lady.

The surprising opponents and backers of Obama’s net neutrality plan

Ted Cruz vs. Justice Scalia, and Obama vs. Jesse Jackson and the NAACP: The fight in Washington over "net neutrality” and has drawn up some strange battle lines.

Congress

Rand Paul: 'Opening up Cuba is a good idea'

Sen. Rand Paul broke with the Republican Party's prevailing argument against President Obama's Cuba policy Thursday, saying the move toward opening trade with the long-embargoed nation "probably" is a good idea.

Retiring DemHenry Waxman's farewell ode to govt

You'd think that, 40 years in, a congressman might grow cynical about the prospects of government meddling. Not retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)!

Senate Confirms Pro-Gun Control Surgeon General
NATIONAL JOURNAL — The Senate narrowly confirmed a new surgeon general whose nomination was delayed for months in a fight over his comments alleging that guns are a public health issue. The confirmation represents a victory for gun-control advocates, even as recent polling has shown Americans moving in the other direction toward gun-rights protections. The […]
Congress gave DOD $3 billion in extra funds

Christmas came early for the Pentagon (and Lockheed Martin.)

Rand Paul's bill to repeal Obama's exec order

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has filed a bill to overturn President Obama’s executive action on immigration.