News - October 18, 2004
By JODY RECORD, Union Leader Correspondent
PORTSMOUTH — There is one line in the documentary “Winning New Hampshire, A Portrait of the 2004 Democratic Primary” that captures the very essence of the first-in-the-nation primary.
It goes something like this: no one in New Hampshire votes for somebody they haven’t met.
If filmmakers Will Rabbe, Aram Fisher and Mark Lynch had only wanted to give Granite Staters an up-close-and-personal glimpse into the political process, they might have stopped there, but they didn’t. And that’s a good thing for the rest of the nation who might not understand just what all the hype is about.
The short film that debuted at the Music Hall last night as part of the Fourth Annual New Hampshire Film Expo captured it all: Retired Army General Wesley Clark doing jumping jacks with basketball students; Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman telling a group of supporters polls don’t matter in New Hampshire and then noting, as a matter of record, that his numbers were up; Sen. John Kerry’s stepsons doing dead-on impersonations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush and a certain movie star turned governor.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and vice-presidential challenger Sen. John Edwards are shown in more traditional roles, pressing palms, signing autographs and highlighting the differences between their ideas and those of the other candidates.
But primarily-no pun intended — “Winning New Hampshire” shines its light on Kerry because, when the film was first started, he was tanking in New Hampshire
“I thought we’d have the best chance of covering him; getting access to him,” Rabbe said last night after the documentary had been shown.
But providing a glimpse of the uniquely New Hampshire process required following the other candidates as well, Rabbe said.
The Boston University graduates opted to make a film of the New Hampshire primary because of their shared interest in politics. The 45-minute flick is shot in quick jerky motions, as though the person holding the camera was caught in the media jostling that is an innate part of campaign coverage.
“We used a lot of really tight close-ups,” Rabbe said. “And shots of people’s feet. It’s what people don’t usually see. It’s like being on the outside looking in.”
The documentary opens with a selection of newspaper headlines, most notably The Union Leader and the Boston Globe. Scene changes are marked through quotes from past Presidents, including John Quincy Adams and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Throughout the film there are numerous references to the historical significance of the New Hampshire primary, with Sen. Ted Kennedy noting the Granite State was the first campaign stop for John F. Kennedy when he was seeking the presidency.
Secretary of State Bill Gardner points out, among other things, that the “unique political culture makes a difference here.”
Portsmouth residents Noelle and Kit Clews called some of the film’s footage “absolutely fascinating.”
“What really interested me the most was to hear Howard Dean had spread his money around the country and John Kerry knew to concentrate on Iowa and New Hampshire,” Noelle Clews said.
Of the documentary itself, she said, “I think it really represents the process quite accurately. It’s wonderful.”
Kit Clews said he “loved it.”
“I particularly loved the line that nobody in New Hampshire votes for someone they haven’t met because that’s how it is,” Kit Clews said. “When we’re abroad and we talk about what it’s like in New Hampshire (politically), peoples’ jaws drop.”