Video Slideshow: Presidential Documentaries Released in Election Years


View video from some of the most influential and controversial documentaries released in the midst of U.S. presidential campaigns.

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1984: Ronald Reagan

Republican Nominee

A New Beginning
Creators: “The Tuesday Team” (including Hal Riney, Philip Dusenberry and Jerry Della Femina)

Like Obama’s 2012 campaign video, this Reagan campaign ad/documentary was an upbeat one that chronicled his first four years in office. The film was significant in that was used in lieu of the traditional nomination speech at the National Convention. This move was later revealed to be a ploy to have the film aired on the three major broadcast networks as it is conventional for networks to broadcast nominating speeches. The film (and nominating speech) would essentially play as a unpaid advertisement for Reagan. The controversial and deceptive move led to CBS and ABC abstaining from broadcasting it in its entirely, while NBC and CNN carried it.

In A New Beginning, media critic Joanne Morreale pins the film as being the first to blend the hallmarks of political ads and documentaries. She wrote, “Much of the film consisted of the carefully crafted, elaborately staged scenes characteristic of advertisements… On the other hand, the elements of A New Beginning typically associated with documentary film production were archival and news footage, travelogue footage of foreign places, voiceover narration, still photographs, ‘expert’ testimonials and interviews with ordinary Americans.”

Reagan would go on to win the election with one of the widest margins ever and Vice President George Bush would recycle imagery from the film for his own campaign videos in 1988.

Result: Re-elected.

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Kapish Singla
Kapish Singla is a Winter 2012 intern with POV Digital. He has previously interned at Cinereach and Rooftop Films. He holds a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University in anthropology.
  • Jeremiah the Bullfrog

    How insightful! Keep the posts coming!!!

  • a-be

    Nice archiving work. But you forgot about this one - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YbzqlVtpXE