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Rental Unit: "Horns and Halos"

Bush bashing gets tricky.

After Hatfield's credibility was destroyed, a hole-in-the-wall NYC collective, Soft Skull Press, republished the book near the 2000 election. This low-budget documentary follows the engrossing story of Hatfield and his Mohawked publisher, the energized Sander Hicks (whom I knew when he was an idealistic student at James Madison) as they navigate lawsuits, bad press and emotional hardship in hopes of promoting interest in Bush's shadowy past, which the mainstream media inexplicably ignored.

Filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky do a good job of capturing the emotions of complex characters drawn into a vortex of media and politics bigger than themselves. Unfortunately, the film offers little investigative journalism of its own and, as in real life, Hatfield's sorry personal story upstages the allegations — which Hatfield claimed were originally planted by a young go-getter named Karl Rove.

The film is interesting, especially in light of the recent CBS News blunder, as it flirts with the cautionary tale that real journalism is endangered in a world of orchestrated smear and spin. It also offers hope in the dogged character of Hicks, a part-time janitor and punk singer who still believes that one person can make a difference. Or that small publishers and others must step forward in times of unprecedented government secrecy and media conformity. — Brent Baldwin

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