'Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains' Jonathan Demme's documentary follows former President Jimmy Carter as he tours to promote his controversial book on the Israeli-Palestinian land conflict, encountering everything from inquisitive radio hosts to outraged rabbis.
NPR logo 'Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains'


'Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains'

Controversy greeted the use of the freighted word "apartheid" in the title of Jimmy Carter's latest book. Alex Cohn/Real Peace Productions, Inc./Sony Pictures Classics hide caption

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Alex Cohn/Real Peace Productions, Inc./Sony Pictures Classics
  • Director: Jonathan Demme
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

At the outset of Jonathan Demme's documentary, former President Jimmy Carter talks about the Georgia farmland that's been in his family for generations, and about how he'd feel if someone tried to take it from him. The moment initially seems disconnected from what follows, but it turns out to be a fine setup for the controversy in which Carter is soon embroiled.

At the center of that firestorm: Carter's 21st book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, in which the possession of and control over land is very much the point. It's the final, provocative word of that title — "apartheid" — that starts the fuss.

As Demme follows Carter on a book tour, in which he's queried by a host of show hosts (Tavis Smiley and NPR's Terry Gross and Diane Rehm among them) — plus everything from long lines of enthusiastic book-buyers to vitriolic rabbis heading angry crowds — we hear what seems like every possible permutation of the arguments surrounding the former president's choice of words, and of subjects.

Though Carter is articulate to the point of eloquence, this is arguably too much of a good thing.