“Jimmy Carter Man From Plains,” review by Susan Granger

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Years ago, as a wedding present, dear friends took my husband and me to spend a weekend with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. It was a revelation. I had never seen our 39th President in such an informal, approachable setting – and now Jonathan Demme has captured Carter’s sharp intelligence and homespun candor on film.

Demme followed Carter on a 2006 book tour for his controversial “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” This documentary tracks the reaction of both fans and foes, who alternately praise or challenge Carter’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly his inflammatory description of the situation as “apartheid,” evoking memories of government-sanctioned segregation in South Africa.

Carter courteously parries accusations of anti-Semitism with interviewers on “Good Morning America,” “Fresh Air,” “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” and “The Tavis Smiley Show.” While Charlie Rose gets particularly testy, Jay Leno adds levity. Not surprisingly, what infuriates Carter most is negativity from people who haven’t even bothered to read his book.

In addition to presenting a chronicle of Certer’s reactions to the media and outspoken Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, Demme also utilizes fascinating archival material, particularly when Carter brokered the Camp David Peace Accords between Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin in 1978. Plus there are glimpses of Carter’s evangelical Christian home life in Georgia, including daily Bible readings with Rosalynn.

In many ways, “Man From Plains” resembles “The Agronomist,” Demme’s documentary about the slain Haitian activist Jean Dominique, and Declan Quinn’s digital video camera concentrates far more on the man more than the imagery. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains” is an insightful 8, exploring the kind of impact a former President can have after leaving the Oval Office.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.