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Published January 1st, 2003 | by Ed Colley

Last Party 2000 Review

Last Party 2000 has a lot going for it. Narrated by the universally-loved actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, this documentary is a fascinating insight into the divergent belief-structures that were (and presumably still are) occupied by the US public in the run-up to the 2000 presidential elections. Although it is clear where the documentary’s own political allegiances lie, the film does not fall into the trap of being smugly subjective in terms of the points it is putting across. Rather, it lets the people Hoffman interviews and their variant viewpoints speak for themselves – often with pretty damn frightening consequences.

The premise of the documentary is fairly simple: followed by a film crew, Hoffman journeys across America visiting the conventions of the major parties in the election – the Republicans, Democrats and to a lesser extent the Greens – as well as interviewing representatives and supporters of each party, and the various individuals and groups who have something to say about the presidential competition. As such, the documentary presents its audience with a fascinating cross section of American society: from the ‘social action’ groups who advise homeless people how to break into empty houses to rather frightening individuals who think social welfare should be replaced by faith-based charities (and who firmly believe that ‘helping someone poorer than you’ is a solely Christian idea); from members of the extremely powerful National Rifle Association who state that all democrats are ‘basically socialists’ to demonstrators on the Million Mom March against firearms; as well as a whole plethora of American politicians from both sides of the political spectrum, some of whom state beliefs that you wouldn’t expect them to considering the party they belong to (the Republican senator who supports the legalisation of marijuana, for instance).

The fact that Last Party 2000 manages to present so many diverging opinions makes for really interesting viewing. A lot is written about America, and even more is spoken about it, so it is refreshing and important to be shown elements of the country that we are not made that aware of. Admittedly, Last Party 2000 is not a wholly objective documentary and at times it does wear its heart on its sleeve a little too much (Philip Seymour Hoffman is clearly in awe of the Rev Jesse Jackson when he interviews the man, and at times the film does feel like its just a long party political broadcast on behalf of the Green Party). However, more often than not, the faults and weaknesses of all those different groups featured are made more than obvious, and it’s not just the plainly-nasty Christian Conservative types who come across badly. After all, no matter how unpleasant certain sections of the Republican Party clearly are, or how ineffectual the Democratic Party has become, would it really be better if the US was controlled by a bunch of dreadlocked youngsters, who are clearly in need of a bath, and still listen to ‘Rage Against The Machine’, even though they saw the back of their 18th birthday many years ago? Because quite frankly, and as Last Party 2000 (perhaps unwittingly shows) that’s the essential composite of America’s ‘radical’ left-wing.

Last Party 2000 ends by showing just how flawed and downright unjust George Bush Jnr’s presidential victory was. But in a sense, this is also indicative of the documentary’s major flaw – namely, that it has come to these shores just a little late. Although the fascinatingly divergent interests in American society still make for good television and are presumably still an important component of that society, since 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, both America and the world around it have changed dramatically. So much so, in fact, that a documentary about the 2000 presidential election seems, well, a bit dated.

All the same, Last Party 2000 is a very interesting film, and anyone even vaguely interested in the USA would be wise to give it a go.

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