Jimmy Carter Man from Plains

Jimmy Carter Man from Plains

Soft-pedaled but still engaging documentary about the former US president's confrontation-plagued book tour in late 2006, when his latest work, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, was vilified by conservative Jews for what they deemed one-sidedness and inaccuracies in Carter's assertions that the recent four-story-high walls built in Palestinian territory - ostensibly to curb suicide bombers' entrance into Israel - was nothing but a land grab on the part of some racist Israeli leaders.

The 82-year-old Carter's energy level on such a strenuous national tour is nothing less than superhuman, and he never loses his grip on his trademark modesty and earnestness, no matter the challenges. Some may find Jonathan Demme's documentary a little too easy on Carter: at times Demme maddeningly cuts away from the ex-president's responses to the more pointed questions, leaving us to wonder if Carter deflected the uncomfortable challenges with political jargon. But in the end, after Carter wins over his toughest audience, we're left with the simplicity of his message: that it's one thing to build a wall on the border of Palestine and Israel; something else entirely for Israel to build the wall entirely within Palestinian territory, blocking off the Palestinians from their own land. This is why he defends his use of the word "Apartheid" in his book title (a controversy brought up time and time again by unimaginative journalists and interviewers throughout the film).

I saw this because my wife's boss, singer/songwriter Dan Bern, wrote "The Ballad of Jimmy Carter" for Demme. But even without the connection, I'm glad I caught this interesting, if not earth-shattering, documentary.