PACMEN

★★★

THE RISE AND FALL OF BEN CARSON

SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Jake Watt
26th June 2017

"LET us pray that the liberal-biased media stop attacking Ben," an old white guy says to a bunch of other white guys during this observational documentary from Luke Walker (‘Beyond Our Ken’). As recent history shows, their prayers went unanswered.

Super-PACs arose in the wake of the disastrous 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision ruling that political action committees could spend unlimited amounts of money to promote a candidate as long as they didn’t have any direct contact with the campaign.

‘PACmen’ follows, for the first time ever, the men behind the Super-PACs that persuaded the notoriously kooky Dr Ben Carson to run for President.

'PACMEN' TRAILER

Ben Carson was a successful neurosurgeon who first attracted widespread attention for his scathing speech at a National Prayer Breakfast delivered to President Barack Obama’s face. Believing Carson could save the Republican Party, they successfully drafted him to run, raised millions of dollars and catapulted him to the top of the polls. “This man has the hand of God in him in every way,” is the strangely erotic declaration of one of many Carson supporters, attracted to the man’s staunch conservatism and religiosity. They saw him as a perfect “outsider” candidate in an election marked by voter dissatisfaction with career politicians.

Then along came Donald Trump...

As Trump’s dark star rose, Carson's political inexperience began to show and his constant media gaffes (such as his claim that the Egyptian pyramids were built for grain storage or his mispronunciation of Hamas so that it sounded like "hummus”) made fundraising increasingly difficult. Donors and voters abandoned Carson's campaign as wallets closed, hearts opened and faith was tested.

Walker is given access to the committees’ inner workings, following ordinary campaign workers, many of whom spend a hilariously inordinate amount of time praying for their candidate.

“How stupid are the people of this country to believe this crap?” Trump incredulously asked the crowd at one of his rallies. He was referring to a tale that Carson recounted in his utterly bonkers autobiography, ‘Gifted Hands’, about how, as a teenager, he attempted to stab someone only to have his knife broken by his would-be victim’s belt buckle.

Walker is given access to the committees’ inner workings, and the film alternates between following ordinary campaign workers, many of whom spend a hilariously inordinate amount of time praying for their candidate, and focusing on the higher-ups as they discuss Carson’s dwindling prospects during in-person and phone meetings.

As Donald Trump is wont to say, "America does not like losers," and Walker mines comedy gold with ‘PACmen’ by illustrating why Carson was exactly that.

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