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John McCain documentary set to air on HBO on Memorial Day

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John McCain documentary set to air on HBO on Memorial Day

Post  Admin on Tue 29 May 2018, 9:53 pm

John McCain documentary set to air on HBO on Memorial Day
May 28, 2018
John McCain documentary set to air on HBO on Memorial Day
Marc Nozell / CCL
Memorial Day marked the premiere of an HBO documentary recounting the life of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). The film, named for McCain’s favorite book For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, takes a candid look at the life and career of the famous Vietnam veteran and long-time lawmaker.

It opens with a quote from the novel: “The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for, and I hate very much to leave it.”

McCain gets film eulogy
The idea for the retrospective documentary came into being before McCain’s cancer diagnosis last summer, but the ailing senator wasted no time in agreeing to take part in the film after being diagnosed with glioblastoma in July. Emmy-winning director Peter Kurnhardt, joined by sons Teddy and George, flew out to McCain’s home in Sedona, AZ, in July 2017, and then to Washington the next month to film the six-hour piece.

The director told Parade.com that he wanted the film’s cast to speak about McCain in the present tense, so as to avoid presenting a “packaged summation” of his life. But the documentary features former presidents, colleagues from Capitol Hill, friends, and family members eulogizing the ailing senator as if he were already departed, critics noted.

The likes of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, as well as Henry Kissinger, John Kerry, Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham all appear on camera to wax poetic about McCain’s life. And getting the former adversaries of McCain to sit down for the interviews was an easy task, the director said:

These were people who, typically, if we went after that caliber of person, we would wait months. They all opened up their calendars because they love John. Even though they fought against him politically and at other times fought with him, he’s a personality and a man who is warm and open and fun. They all made it happen.

Kurnhardt charts the course of the senator’s often controversial career in the documentary, touching on episodes in in which he opposed his own party on issues like campaign finance, immigration, climate change, and his dramatic Obamacare-repeal-killing vote just days after his diagnosis. McCain also speaks on camera, at one point saying, “I have lived an honorable life, and I am proud of my life.”

Do you think it's time for John McCain to resign?
Movies dodges tough questions
The movie doesn’t neglect to mention some of McCain’s mistakes, however, of which there are many. McCain is “haunted” by some of his more regretful decisions, Kurnhardt said — like choosing Sarah Palin to be his running mate in 2008.

“I should have said: ‘Look, Joe Lieberman is my best friend, we should take him,'” McCain says in the film. “But I was persuaded by my political advisers it would be harmful, and that was another mistake that I made.”

Still, despite those regretful admissions, the movie dodges some tough questions according to critics. The movie largely glosses over McCain’s unabated hawkishness over the years, from Vietnam to North Korea in the present. Guardian writer Ed Pilkington also faults the directors for buying into the “maverick” mythos to depict McCain in an unwaveringly positive light, writing:

Did he do enough when he effectively led the Republican party to hold back the dark forces welling up within it? Must he accept a share of blame for the ugly, ominous world he will probably soon leave behind?

Additionally, McCain has positioned himself as a defiant representative of decency and civic virtue against Trump — who he likens to a tyrant in his new memoir, The Restless Wave — but the film doesn’t mention Trump, even as McCain has remained outspoken against the president, most recently opposing his nominee to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, over her involvement in controversial torture methods after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Haspel was confirmed despite his opposition.

Director Kurnhardt maintains that McCain’s career could be defined by a message of bipartisanship.

“Right now, in these politically tumultuous times, his message seems to be spot-on, which is that we have to get together, we’ve got to get bipartisanship and we’ve got to cross the political divide,” Kurnhardt told Parade.com. “He was saying the same thing in the ’80s and ’90s, and that rings so true today.”

But while his bipartisanship might be gaining McCain fame in the film industry, his Republican colleagues in Washington still aren’t big fans of the homebound senator — and that opinion likely won’t be swayed by the eulogizing documentary.

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