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Caucus: Welcome to the Iowan Monkey House

A.J. Schnack has a knack for shooting documentaries about electoral politics. His 2009 Convention was about the Democrats’ coronation of “Barrage” Obama in Denver in 2008, while Caucus deals with the Republican candidates in the nation’s first salvo fired during the 2012 campaign to choose delegates to back candidates at the Grand Old Party’s convention.


The whole cast of colorful characters and GOP carcasses are on display in Caucus: That preternaturally stupid poseur Newt Gingrich, whom the national media never misses an opportunity to anoint as some sort of Einstein, even though he’s always been wrong about everything; the daft, homophobic Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and her effeminate hubby Marcus (“self hating is us” might be their slogan); odious, sanctimonious Rick Santorum, who is so “pro-life” he always voted for war and is such a devoted family man that he scores points by milking his baby’s death and deserts a sick daughter to pursue the campaign trail; blustery Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a professional know nothing; that blithering, slithering idiot Herman Cain; and so on.

Many of the period’s top quotes are captured by Schnack’s camera, such as Mitt Robot Romney insisting that “corporations are people” -- just as his supporters likewise insisted he was human, too. Sarah Palin makes a brief appearance, but there’s not enough of Ron Paul, who is made to seem foolish when the lens records his inability to shut a van door. Caucus reveals one of the fundamental flaws in what passes for American “democracy” -- the notion that such a wildly unrepresentative, overly white state can play such a decisive role in determining who the whole nation’s presidential candidates will be. Indeed, the doc could almost be called “Caucasian Caucus.”


But just when the Iowans are in danger of coming across as a pack of goobers some occupiers or gay rights activists stir things up by interjecting a note of reality into the discourse. Caucus was on a double bill with the clever short Declaration of War, which artfully manipulates footage of George W. Bush addressing a joint session of Congress to humorous effect.

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ed rampell

Ed Rampell

The new book co-authored by L.A.-based reviewer Ed Rampell, “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book”, published by Honolulu’s Mutual Publishing, drops Nov. 25.