In the most amusingly cheap-shot sections of the new documentary "Feed" (Nuart), we're treated to a series of intercepted satellite television "feeds" of the 1992 presidential candidates on the stump during the New Hampshire primary. According to the film's press notes, "video artist and public television activist" Brian Springer used his rooftop satellite dish to "stake out" the airwaves during the presidential election season. The candidates are caught in the interminable moments before air time: before they put on their official faces.
We observe Jerry Brown mightily inhaling nasal spray and obsessing about the placement of his tie. Bill Clinton coughs up into his handkerchief. George Bush waits behind his desk in stoic silence, except for the occasional crack. (Sample: "This is the real thing. This isn't Dana Carvey.") Bob Kerrey glowers spookily as his mike continually malfunctions. A bemused Paul Tsongas purses his lips. Tom Harkin affects a hearty bonhomie. Pat Buchanan is an only slightly laid-back version of his ramrod TV persona.
Filmmakers Kevin Rafferty and James Ridgeway (who is also Washington correspondent for the Village Voice) intersperse this footage with their own caught-on-the-run coverage, which includes Arnold Schwarzenegger at a Bush rally running down the Democrats as a bunch of "girly men." But it's the "feed" moments that make the movie. Are they really as "unguarded" as they seem? Probably not. They're halfway between the on-camera candidate and his "real" self. This is how these men gird for battle just before the camera clicks on.
Of course, most of the candidates at such times look foolish and phony. But is it any surprise that their on-camera persona is a concoction? It's not exactly deep political analysis to show candidates primping and grousing just prior to showtime. (Who doesn't look foolish under such circumstances?) And yet, we've become so accustomed to seeing politicians on TV that we can't help scrutinizing these "feed" clips for some clue to the candidate's inner life. At a moment when the fate of the presidency may hinge on the candidates' makeup jobs during the presidential debates, "Feed" (Times-rated Family) underscores the transparency of the television process. But it also plays into it.
A Video Democracy production of an Original Cinema Release. Directors/Producers Kevin Rafferty and James Ridgeway. Satellite "Feed" material by Brian Springer. Cinematographer Kevin Rafferty. Editors Sarah Durham and Kevin Rafferty. Sound Charles Arnot. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.