"An Unreasonable Man" is a documentary about activist and politician, Ralph Nader. Obviously meant to sway our opinion in favor of Ralph Nader, "An Unreasonable Man" isn't entirely a puff piece and certainly doesn't shy away from the resentment people feel for him. I expected an "Ode to Nader" and in fact it focused on his disappointments as much as his accomplishments.
"An Unreasonable Man" starts in the 1960's as Nader crusades to make cars safer. A person with no organization, no back up, he personally goes head to head against the leading car manufactures, especially GM to require Detroit to manufacture cars geared toward safety, not just sex. GM sends private investigators to dig up dirt, women to try to seduce him and put him in a compromising position, and threatened him with bodily harm in order to get him to stop his push for safety. Eventually, Nader wins in congress the mandate to make cars safer, makes manufacturers put seatbelts and airbags in cars and gains a national following. Soon he has a collection of college students called "Nader's Raiders" who crusade with him in the fight for social justice. The film follows his career though today, including the last two presidential elections.
The movie interviews about fifty people, including Nader, and clips from other sources, on their feelings and recollections of their experiences with him. Some famous people include Phil Donahue, Pat Buchanan, Tim Robbins, Bill Maher, Susan Sarandon, and Michael Moore. There are a lot of journalists, politicians, public interest attorneys, his family and friends, former Naider's Raiders, researchers, traffic safety experts, publishers, public officials, music studio executives, and more. Each of them have an insight to Nader as a person, a policy maker and an advocate. At the end of the movie, they give their personal opinions about the elections and if he did the right or the wrong things. You can tell that the people in the film, even when they disagree, still respect Nader. It was interesting to see why people feel so strongly for Nader, and how their opinions about his place in politics, and the world of policy advocacy has changed so much over time.
The film does have some problems. It moves slowly though the stories, some parts taking a little too long to get to the point. Its editors Beth Gallagher and Alexis Provost, don't know how to cut someone off mid sentence through editing, so sometimes you'll catch half a word indicating the continuation of a sentence. Not only is it annoying, it makes you wonder if what they were saying is important or contrary to the filmmakers desired point. There is nothing special about how the film is shot. Directors Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan rely too much on the organization signs in the background to explain who someone is and why they are important. I'd never heard of some of the organizations, so I was a little befuddled as to the point of some of these people until late into the film.
I knew very little about Ralph Nader before I saw this movie and I think a lot of people my age don't either. To be honest, I knew of Nader that he was involved in politics, but I had no idea what he had done. The documentary is rich with information that people under 50 might not know. I have gained a great respect for Nader after this documentary. Something I'm sure you guys don't know about me is I used to be a legislative advocate and rights violation investigator for foster children in California and the US. I personally faced corporations, state agencies and groups that were larger and more powerful than myself. I had my person besmirched, my character and motivations questioned and had to trudge up hill. It isn't easy to enact legislative or policy change by yourself, or even with the support of a powerful group when the people you are facing have millions and you have nothing. I too have testified in state congressional hearings as an expert/witness and had to stand my ground when legislators' ignorance and insolence boiled over. When I say I admire Nader, it is out of knowledge of how hard it is to do what he has done as well as for the things he has actually done.
I learned that Nader was instrumental in passing such monumental legislation as: The Freedom of Information Act, National Automobile and Highway Traffic Safety Act (1965), Clean Water Act (1968), Clean Air Act (1970), Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) (1970), Co-op Bank Bill (1978), law establishing the Environmental Protection Agency (1970), Consumer Products Safety Act, Foreign Corruptions Practices Act, Wistleblower Protection Act, Mine Health and Safety Act, Medical Devices Safety, Nuclear Power Safety, Mobile Home Safety, Consumer Credit Disclosure Law, Pension Protection Law, Funeral Home Disclosure Law, Tire Safety and Grading Disclosure Law, Wholesome Meat Act, Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, Wholesome Poultry Production act, Safe Water Drinking Act, National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. These acts made car manufactures put seat belts in cars, label your food, gives you safe drinking water, protects the land from pollution, monitors nuclear power plants, etc. These are things we take for granted every day.
If you are at all interested in politics, or policy this movie is a great one to see. Not only does it look into Nader, but they way policies are set and factors other than morality that determine the validity and success of legislation. I would also recommend this to people who want to know why people hate Nader with such viciousness. Even with its few hiccups here and there, "An Unreasonable Man" has a message we all need to hear: one person can make a difference, and does.