Boogie Man

Those interviewed for Stefan Forbes’ fascinating documentary about Lee Atwater end anecdotes about the Republican strategist’s dirty tricks with a titter that is either nervous or ambivalently appreciative. It may be enough to know that Atwater (who drove race into the 1988 presidential campaign to win the election for George Bush Sr. against Michael Dukakis) was a disciple of Strom Thurmond and taught Karl Rove most of what he knows about exploiting media. But Forbes fills out his picture of Atwater with testimony of those who admired or loathed him. Less persuasive is Forbes’ perfunctory, psychologically thin rummage through Atwater’s childhood for a traumatic event that might explain Atwater’s ruthlessness. But what he finds is less interesting than the question of whether the blues-playing Southerner was a racist or cynic and it’s less interesting than the film’s revelations about the ambiguities of Atwater’s highly publicized remorse, with hand on Bible, as he lay dying of brain cancer. — Ella Taylor

Categories: Movies