William Karel: Looking for Nicolas Sarkozy

A couple of days after the death of Vaclav Havel, you sit down and watch a documentary on the French president Nicolas Sarkozy – what a quality step down – set up through a mix of archive material and comments from foreign correspondents, who have followed the president from his entrance to power in May 2007. Commentators from leading English and German newspapers and magazines, as well as tv people from a handful of countries. Quite a good spread with more or less analytical remarks, practically speaking all of them pretty negative. Well in the beginning everyone was expecting a new, much more energetic period after dead years with Chirac, but quickly it was clear that Sarkozy was not ready for the job, to say the least. He comes out as a total fool in this documentary, ”in the beginning he was like a ten year old boy”, one says in the film that is chronologically structured and involves a lot of anecdotes about the performance of the president. And not much more, as he has never really invited the foreign press to have longer interviews with him – visions for France, he does not have.

But he has the ability to control the media in his country, he has the power to push himself into the spotlight leaving his ministers as tools for the promotion of himself. Of course the private life is commented. His dependency on the advice of his Cecilia (”sans Cecilia il était totalement perdu”), who left him – and his quick change to Carla, and now the baby, cleverly used in public relations purpose. OK, he gets praise for his role in the Russian-Georgian conflict, for his role in dealing with the European financial crisis, but otherwise the film is full of the correspondents talking about his coming late to the Vatican, using his cell phone during the meeting with the Pope, the catastrophical insults to Africa, the idea of sending help to Ben Ali when the revolution in Tunisia had started, his disastrous and cynical move towards the romas, his relationship to Angela Merkel (remember the photo of the two on the beach and the comment ”how deep is their love”), his jealousy towards Barack Obama etc. At the end of the film the correspondents revela that Sarkozy, through his campaigners, now is trying to build up a new image as a more calm and intellectual statesman, who watch Robert Bresson and Carl Th. Dreyer in the evenings!

In the documentary genre of films about state leaders the film of Karel can not compete with the films we have available on Kennedy, Clinton and Havel. It is a tv product, formatted, fun to watch and of course you ask yourself – did we get close to the man, no, not at all, and what is it that the French like about him? Will there be a film about that? This is more of a comedy, but his flirt with the voters of Front National is not fun at all, will there be a film about that?  

France, 2011, 77 mins.

The film is available on dvd, in France  you can buy it in one of the fnac shops or you can order it via Amazon. This review is based on the broadcast on arte, wednesday december 21, 2011.


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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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