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Title : In Bed with an Elephant
Release : 1986
Stars :
Genre : Documentary

I would rate the film “In Bed with an Elephant: Prime Ministers and Presidents” a nine on a scale of ten. This film is fairly concise, being only an hour long, but it contains a lot of information and covers a lot of historical ground over the course of that hour. It goes from John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, meeting with President Grant as a representative of Great Britain’s interests, on up through the 1930s, where it began to delve into more detail, up until the mid-1980s. This film was produced in 1986. It discussed relationships all over the spectrum, from the friendly and familial conduct between Mackenzie King and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the rivalry between Diefenbaker and Jack Kennedy to the lopsided personal power dynamics of the era of Lyndon Johnson and Lester Pearson (the election of whom Kennedy directly influenced) and the rift between the two nations caused by the rift between Richard Nixon and Pierre Trudeau. All of these relationships are against a background of industrial production, economic strategies, and conflicts such as the Second World War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War.
The film did a great job of showing historical images, using still pictures, sound clips, and historical film to emphasize its points. The contrasting relations between the presidents and prime ministers as the years went by is shown quite clearly through images of them together, interviews with historians or, in one case, a former prime minister himself, and the narration provided. Some of the relationships were quite friendly and some were not very friendly at all, and plenty of detail behind these was provided in the form of specific events or meetings between the two heads of government. The music of the film fit the time periods depicted and helped to illustrate the points that the film was trying to make, and the fact that the narrator was shown in a variety of historical places, like Mackenzie King’s study, also helped to bring the history to life, which seems to be the challenge faced by all historical documentaries. The film ends by raising an interesting question (“Can Canadians choose their nationality?”), which seemed a bit off and was the only detrimental aspect of the film, in my opinion. Overall, it was quite good.

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