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Controversial Film on Condi Rice to Screen at WPU

Published: Thursday, March 5, 2009

Updated: Thursday, March 5, 2009 17:03

Students will soon see what happens when one man falls in love with a Secretary of State who has a thing for Stalin and an ear for music.

William Paterson University will screen "Courting Condi," a comedic retrospective on the life of Condoleezza Rice in the library auditorium on Tuesday, March 3 between 7 and 10 p.m. It is being called the first ever musical docu-tragi-comedy.

Director Sebastian Doggart explained his film in a statement.

"Americans are tired at seeing the terrible truths of the Bush Administration," said Doggart, "so this story needed some sugar sprinkled on the tragic documentary pill. That jolliness comes from the musical and comedy elements. It's a movie as weird and wonderful as Rice herself -- part Borat, part Fahrenheit 9/11, part Mamma Mia! My main aim is to get people singing, laughing and screaming back at the Bush Administration."

Doggart also seeks to capture the depth of Rice's character.

"She is an extraordinary character. Hers is as fascinating a rise to power as Barack Obama's, but far darker," Doggart said.

"Courting Condi," which has won ten awards on the festival circuit, is a retrospective about the Bush Administration that tells Rice's tale through the eyes of a romantic musician trying to win her heart.

Devin Ratray, famed as Buzz in "Home Alone," travels across America to find out about Bush's chief confidante, whom Forbes once rated as most powerful woman in the world, and who has been tipped as a leading Republican capable of mounting a presidential challenge to Obama in 2012.

While in Denver, Ratray learns about a turning point in Rice's life when she was 17. A talented pianist, she went to the Aspen Musical Festival and met prodigies who could play by ear what she needed months to learn. "She was mechanically proficient," explains Theodor Lichtmann, her music teacher, "but when I tried to touch her heart, there was nothing there."

Rice then had what she describes as "my one life crisis." It was resolved when she went to a lecture on Stalin, with whom she became "smitten".

The lecture, which inspired her to study politics, was given by Josef Korbel, who, in a bizarre historical coincidence, was also the father of Madeleine Albright.

"Korbel was the father of the first two female secretaries of state – biologically, in Albright's case, and intellectually, with Rice," said Marcus Mabry, author of Rice's biography, Twice As Good.

Ratray also meets Rick Upchurch, a famous Denver Broncos player and the one man ever to have been engaged to Rice. "She was very conservative ... There was no rubbing or touching. Not even a French kiss. She didn't feel she had to give her body to anyone. She had promised God that she would not have sex before marriage. She's never married, and I believe she is still hanging on to those principles today." Then a Democrat, Rice returned the engagement ring in May 1977 when Jimmy Carter offered her a post in the Department of Education: "She chose power over love", concludes Upchurch.

While at Stanford, Devin discovers that Condi was a director of the oil company Chevron, whose board was so appreciative of her work that they named an oil tanker after her. But critics claim she left with blood on her hands from Chevron's complicity in the murder of protestors in Nigeria. According to Laura Flanders, author of Bushwomen, "Rice played an active role in turning shareholder initiatives back when the shareholders were saying they wanted to be pushing for more human rights, not ignoring abuses by the Nigerian government."

The film's most hard-hitting revelations come in Washington DC, where Devin learns about her time in power, as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. He discovers from Congressman Robert Wexler that Condi "made 56 false or misleading public statements about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda."

More disturbing revelations center on Rice's direct role from 2001-2005 as Chair of the group of ‘Principals', that also included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzalez. The group's role was to select and authorize torture techniques used by the CIA and other outsourced organizations conducting the ‘war on terror'. Glenn Kessler, author of the Rice biography The Confidante, said: "These enhanced interrogation methods included water-boarding, fingernail extraction, and sleep deprivation. Condi signed off on the orders to the CIA with the hand-written words, ‘This is your Baby, go do it!'"

The film has been completed in spite of the Bush Administration's attempts to shut it down. These included sending Karl Rove to heavy-hand the CEO of Discovery, who had committed $600,000 to co-produce, to pull out for fear of compromising their "good relations with government".

Doggart overcame fierce opposition to produce the movie.

"While filming in DC, we were raided by the State Department, whose agents left a bug under a coffee table in the inn where we were staying." Rice and her supporters continued to block the film by strong-arming the Stanford Film Society to cancel a screening at Stanford University, where Rice has now returned to take up a fellowship. "Rice's cronies were scared that students and faculty would see what Rice did last time she was here," he said.

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