Tribeca Film Festival 2023- “Rather”
Moving into his 90s as strong as he has ever been, Dan Rather continues to stand as one of the most important giants of American journalism. Frank Marshall’s “Rather” is a sharp and informative examination of the man, his career, and his enduring impact in the journalistic field.
Marshall’s documentary takes a close look at how Dan Rather’s career reflected the America he worked so hard to describe with complete honesty and determination.
Rather was on the front lines for every big story of the eras he covered. The film shows the dedicated reporter at the forefront of the JFK assassination, Vietnam, the struggle for Civil Rights, the Democratic convention in 1969 Chicago, Watergate, Tiananmen Square, and breaking the story of Abu Ghraib.
These are times in history that not only defined Dan Rather as a man and journalist but shaped the public’s persona of him.
Rather is a truth seeker who refuses to suffer fools. His battles with presidents Richard Nixon and George Bush Sr. are legendary, with his pushback on Nixon beginning a major war between the Right Wing and honest journalism.
Dan Rather never reported from “miles away”. Be it a war, a natural disaster, a protest, or going one on one with tough subjects, throughout his incredible career, the man was always in the thick of it. He would have it no other way.
As Sheppard Smith says in one of the on-camera interviews, “When you wanna know what it feels like, Dan Rather brings you there.”
Frank Marshall smartly allows Dan Rather to tell his own tale. The stories are tremendous and often moving and the anecdotes are priceless.
Rather speaks to the good and bad in his professional life. The respected accomplishments are many, but he doesn’t shy away from times when things went wrong. Significantly, his attack on the streets of New York where he was badly beaten, yet the Right-Wing media attack dogs claimed it was staged. That doctors confirmed Dan Rather could have died from the assault made no difference to hungry wolves that were his enemies.
Most importantly, the devastating instance where Dan Rather got it wrong, regarding a false document about George W. Bush’s military service was a hard hit for the man. Unfortunately, this happened during Bush’s re-election campaign. CBS and Rather’s reputation were badly damaged, with the journalist forced to resign amongst substantial lawsuits.
On air and in the press, Dan Rather refused to let someone else take the fall and owned up to his role in the very public error in judgement. Humans aren’t infallible. When delivering his final newscast, the respected anchorman signed off with grace and honor. To those who saw it through honest eyes, his reputation was (and remains) untarnished.
When Rather took over as anchor for CBS news (after Walter Cronkite retired), his one word sign-off embodied what makes him so unique and important to modern news. The word was “courage” and he embodied it in every breath.
With “Rather” (one of the best films at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival) director Marshall does his subject justice. This isn’t hero worship. There is no need for cinematic tricks or flash. If one were to refer to the documentary as “formulaic”, it is only in its talking head structure. Again, no bells and whistles required.
The filmmaker respects Dan Rather as a man and as a committed journalist who believes in Democracy, a better America, and the dedicated quest for truth, wherever it may lead.
Rather the reporter, Rather the man, and “Rather” the documentary exist as a fascinating trifecta.
Directed by Frank Marshall
NR, 95 Minutes, The Kennedy/Marshall Company