Reality vs. False Reality

Two shots ring out and a president falls to the ground as people scream, cameras swirl and chaos breaks out. But it’s not just any president, it was U.S. President George W. Bush.

Controversial? Without question. Provacative? Surprisingly not. Death of a President (or D.O.A.P.) is a fictional documentary about the purported assassination of Bush in 2007 outside of a Chicago hotel and perhaps the most buzzed about film at this year's Toronto Film Festival. The most controversial part about D.O.A.P. is the fact it uses a current president as its assassination target instead of a fictional character. Beyond that it was nowhere near as edgy or political as the hype led you to believe.

After taking the bold step to use the current president as a target, the filmmakers appeared to lose their nerve to explore the worldwide ramifications of what would happen if the U.S. president was assassinated in the current world climate. D.O.A.P. focused more on detailing security failures and legal procedures than making a political statement. It was surprisingly passionless. Yes, it showed that the in a case like this the U.S. would jump to conclusions and make the evidence fit the facts. A Muslim was the top suspect and remained so even after an American comes forward with evidence his Dad, a veteran of the first Gulf War, did it. Any remember the Oklahoma bombing? After screening so close to the anniversary of 9/11 and being set in the future, it all seemed so five years ago.

D.O.A.P. really didn't tell us anything we don't already know and can't get in the current media, which has finally become more critical of George W. Bush, his decisions and his administration. You can find a more hard-hitting critique of the current regime from Jon Stewart in almost any episode the Daily Show.

There was a lot of controversy before this film screened, before anyone had seen it, which appears mostly unwarranted upon viewing. People need to stop freaking out about films they not watched themselves. The controversy continues with some reports describing the audience as cheering, others indicating everyone sat in stony silence. Neither are true – it was an attentive and receptive audience who gave the film the same applause any film gets after a screening. No more, no less. Any other reports are an example of the fact manipulation the film focuses on.

The deficiencies of D.O.A.P. became all the more apparent the next day when we saw Sharkwater, a documentary with little to no advance press. Now this was a film that had impact, both dramatic and emotional, telling a real story about how humans are killing off the world's sharks.

Rob Stewart, a photographer, set out to make a film about sharks and what beautiful creatures we were going to lose if we didn't stop killing them. He ended with a tale of political corruption and greed, and showing us that we may destroy ourselves in the process as we shortsightedly kill off the top of the food chain of the ocean.

Stewart showed how governments are allowing the overfishing of sharks in sensitive ecosystems such as Costa Rica and the Galapagos with wasteful methods such as long lining — all due to the demand in Asia, in particular, for shark fins. The fins are sliced off the sharks while they're still alive and then the bodies of the maimed fish are tossed back into the ocean to drown and bleed to death.

Unlike D.O.A.P., it had a purpose, a call to action. Despite having slaughtered 90% of the world’s shark population over the past 50 years – creatures that have existed for over 400 million years – Stewart said there was still a chance to make a difference before it’s too late. Visit for more details.

Above: A scene from Death of a President. Below: Gill and TBA pose with the Sharkwater mascot while I idiotically show what a shark will not do to you in the ocean.


  1. EXCELLENT review! I have no plans on seeing DOAP just because it doesn't capture my interest. I would like to see Sharkwater, that sounds really good.

  2. I had expected so much more from DOAP but it turned out to be more promise than delivery.

    AA- Sharkwater isn't coming out until April, so you may have a bit of a wait, but it is worth it. And now I can pass of my distaste for seafood as a moral choice.

  3. Sharkwater sounds good. Fascinating creatures.

    Too bad about DOAP. Sounds like it had potential to make a statement but didn't follow through.

  4. It's very disappointing to hear about DOAP, I guess it just wasn't mean to be. I'm now looking forward to Sharkeater all the more!