dir. Penny Lane, US, 2013, HD, 84 min.
Throughout Richard Nixon’s presidency, three
of his top White House aides obsessively documented their experiences with
Super 8 home movie cameras. Young, idealistic, and dedicated, they had no idea
that a few years later they’d all be in prison. This unique and personal visual
record, created by H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and Dwight Chapin, was
seized by the FBI during the Watergate investigation, then filed away at the
National Archives, and forgotten for almost 40 years.
Our Nixon is an all-archival documentary presenting
those home movies for the first time, along with other rare footage (period
news, pop culture footage, and excerpts from the Nixon tapes), creating an
intimate and complex portrait of the Nixon presidency as never seen
Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Chapin filmed over
500 reels of home movies from 1969 to 1973, capturing the prosaic and the
profound. They filmed big events: the Apollo moon landing, historic anti-war
protests, the Republican National Convention, Tricia Nixon’s White House
wedding, and Nixon’s world-changing trip to China. They filmed world leaders and
celebrities: Nicolae Ceausescu, Chou En-lai, Barbara Walters.
But they also filmed each other and everyday
life: Ehrlichman eating dinner off a tray on Air Force One, Chapin’s wife and
kids meeting the Easter Bunny on the White House lawn, Haldeman riding a
bicycle at Camp David. Ehrlichman was especially fond of filming hummingbirds.
They filmed to have something to show their grandchildren. They filmed because they thought that Nixon’s presidency would change the world forever. The tragedy is that they were right.