Commitments [1991]

Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne, Angeline Ball, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Dave Finnegan
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 118 minutes

Having earned John F. Kennedy's trust with his 1960 campaign-trail film Primary, pioneering cinema verité documentarian Robert Drew expressed his desire to document a president in crisis. When African American college students Vivian Malone and James Hood prepared to enroll at the all-white University of Alabama in June 1963, governor George Wallace supplied the crisis, defying a federal court order and vowing to prevent the students' enrollment. Kennedy granted unprecedented access to Drew and his unobtrusive four-team crew, who used handheld cameras to cover both sides of the conflict: Wallace self-righteously clings to the futility of segregation (and more than a few racist Alabamans support him), while a flurry of phone calls between JFK, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenback reveal a tightly coordinated plan to dismiss Wallace (in RFK's words) as "a second-rate figure." The result is the most intimate study of JFK and RFK ever filmed, capturing the powerful brothers as they forge a great victory for civil rights and racial equality. In defeat, Wallace is left stinging and irrelevant, a Southern dinosaur whose arrogance was his own undoing. For these and many other reasons, Crisis remains one of the most riveting visual records of the Kennedy administration, and Drew's short film Faces of November (included as a bonus feature) provides a sobering reminder: Five months after Crisis was filmed, JFK was dead and a nation was mourning. --Jeff Shannon

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