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Movie Review: Our Nixon

August 30, 2013

Our Nixon PosterOur Nixon – A Films We Like Release

Release Date: August 30th, 2013 @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Rated PG for mature themes and language

Running time: 85 minutes

Penny Lane (dir.)

Brian L. Frye (dir.)

Hrishikesh Hirway (music)

Dwight Chapin as Himself

John Ehrlichman as Himself (archive footage)

H.R. Haldeman as Himself (archive footage)

Henry Kissinger as Himself (archive footage)

Richard Nixon as Himself (archive footage)

Our reviews below:


Our Nixon Review By John C.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Throughout the presidency of Richard Nixon from 1969 to his resignation in 1974, the closest members of his staff filmed over five hundred Super 8 videos during his time at the White House, footage that was confiscated in the midst of the Watergate trials.  Directors Penny Lane and Brian L. Frye were allowed unprecedented access to these wide spanning archives, and have compiled some of the most politically important footage together into the documentary Our Nixon.

There are some quietly interesting realizations in the film, many of them coming from the supposedly private phone conversations between Richard Nixon and his staff that were recorded for various reasons, including an unfortunate dialogue revealing his views against homosexuality.  But there isn’t much in the way of explanatory interviews or engaging visuals to back up this archival footage, which means that Our Nixon often lacks the narrative focus that drives some of the best documentaries.  Because of this approach, the film ends up feeling a little long, even at a mere 85 minutes.

But there is something undeniably admirable about the fact that the filmmaking team was able to edit large portions of this footage together into a coherent film.  Those interested in this turbulent time in American political history that continues to fascinate will find Our Nixon a fairly interesting overview of events from a slightly different perspective.


Our Nixon Review by Erin V.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Our Nixon is compiled entirely from footage from both news clips, as well as filmed by Nixon’s three trusted advisors and his own audio recordings.  This footage that was essentially not ever meant to be made public does offer an interesting look at the actual people behind Watergate – and everything that surrounded the scandal.

While the film is interesting, it feels a little long, especially since we are just watching old grainy footage in the middle of the screen, often with subtitled (due to sound quality) audio recordings.  In some ways it feels like either putting more explanation around the footage to fill those in who are not as familiar with Watergate, or perhaps having a shorter running time may have benefitted the movie.  In a 1 hour TV time slot (52 minutes) the film might feel a bit more manageable than the 84 minutes presented here.  Still, for those who want a unique behind-the-scenes look so to speak, Our Nixon provides that nicely.


Our Nixon Review by Nicole

**1/2 (out of 4)

Our Nixon compiles various Super 8 home movies created by former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s assistants in the late 1960s and the early 1970s.  Combined with interviews, we get a glimpse into Nixon’s often shady career.  Much of the dialogue is accompanied by backyard shots of birds and squirrels at a feeder, adding a sense of irony.

All of this previously secret footage leads up to Watergate, and Nixon’s forced resignation.  While Our Nixon is interesting, it is a little long at 84 minutes.  However, anyone interested in American history and politics will want to check out this film.


Our Nixon Review by Maureen

** (out of 4)

Unlike the individuals involved in the Nixon administration, Super 8 film footage and audiotapes of telephone conversations don’t lie.  However, all this previously unreleased film and audio still doesn’t give much more insight into the infamous former U.S. President Richard Nixon.

In her documentary, Our Nixon, director Penny Lane combines old archival footage and television interviews with the hours and hours of Super 8 footage filmed by Nixon’s key administrators and Watergate fall guys, H.R. (Bob) Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin.  The result is at times both mundane and fascinating.  From shots of backyard squirrels to Nixon’s historic 1972 trip to China, Our Nixon manages to give a better sense of how Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Chapin perceived Nixon’s time in office before and after they all served jail time for their role in Watergate.

Still, Our Nixon is worth viewing especially if you have an interest in American political history.


Our Nixon Review by Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

Our Nixon provides a unique view of the Nixon presidency from 1969 to his resignation in 1974, based on some 500 recently released amateur super 8 films shot by chief White House staffers H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin. Subsequent interviews with these aides and excerpts from Nixon’s infamous White House tapes provide much of the sound track for the silent film. Additional background information is provided by network news clips.

It is interesting how some images from the Nixon era relate to the present. Though Nixon, Haldeman and Ehrlichman never saw the end of the 20th century, Chapin is heard in a 2008 interview and Kissinger is still around, though no longer the “swinger” Nixon called him. The whistle blower Daniel Elsberg who elicited such contempt from Nixon now speaks out in defence of his counterpart Edward Snowden, while former Vietnam war veteran for peace John Kerry is currently as Secretary of State justifying intervention in Syria.

I found Our Nixon a nice chance to revisit the Nixon years which I mostly spent in college. Though the square grainy super 8 images alone don’t add much to the story, combined chronologically in combination with commentary and news clips they make history fun to watch.


Consensus: Edited together from Super 8 videos that were taken during Richard Nixon’s time in office, the documentary Our Nixon feels a little too long, but offers an interesting look at this time in history from a slightly different perspective.  **1/2 (Out of 4)

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