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Message Tom Dennen

The question on everyone’s mind is, “Just what is Mr. Barak Hussein Obama going to do?”

the question is also top-of-mind in South Africa.

South Africans, like most people, all have moments when they think they’d do a better job than, say Thabo Mbeki, certainly Jacob Zuma did and the new president, Mr. Kgalema Mothlanthe, is trying to, (but of course, none of them comes near Nelson Mandela who, as a leader, was what the whole world believes a politician should be).

But innocents 'catapulted' into office just doesn’t happen.

Except in the movies.

“Dave” is possibly the best role Kevin Kline has ever played, his Oscar-winning role as the loony psychopath Otto in ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ notwithstanding.

(Excerpt from an interview by Susan Lehman, a producer on "The Jane Pratt Show".)

‘KK: “It was mostly a back-end deal, so not much up front! ... Okay, in all seriousness, I wanted to test a theory of comedy. Most of the comedies I've done have been rather farcical and extravagant. When one does farce like that, it involves a type of highly charged, energized, manic -- dare I say larger than life? -- performance. But a film like "Dave" requires a greater degree of naturalism in the acting. The audience has to believe in the character. It's a different kind of comedy. You don't have the same kind of conventions to support you. When you have satire, it has to be real. No matter how outrageous the comedy becomes, you have to believe in the characters.”

‘ "Dave," … requires the actor to play two roles at once -- Kline doubles as President Bill Mitchell and his look-alike, a two-bit employment agent named Dave who fills in when the president suffers a stroke – (providing) a perfect venue for Kline's terrific double-edged humor and talent.

‘An accomplished Shakespearean actor whose screen credits include "Sophie's Choice," "The Big Chill," "A Fish Called Wanda” and "Grand Canyon," Kline says he was attracted to "Dave's" innocence. "Innocent" probably isn't the word Washington insiders will use to describe a movie predicated on the idea that an ordinary man can run the country better than a trained politician. But Dave, the character who bumbles playfully through the rituals of power, is every bit the uncorrupted Everyman who, given an unexpected chance to run his country, does the right thing.

‘Complete with cameo performances by journalists and politicians such as as Nina Totenberg, Michael Kinsley, Larry King, Tip O'Neill, Alan Simpson and Frank Mankiewicz -- and an especially funny performance by Oliver Stone, who appears briefly to offer a conspiracy theory about President Mitchell -- "Dave" is likely to elicit special chuckles from capital audiences. For its 44-year-old star, however, the city is clearly nothing more than the place in which his most recent movie happened to be set. Apparently intent on retaining his distance from Washington's ways, Kline won't tangle with political questions of any kind. "Nope. I won't talk politics," he says with the gracious evasiveness of a consummate politician. "I'm not equipped to talk politics. I haven't even read the paper in two weeks.” ‘

No, it wasn’t about politics, it was about what you and I really think about (and are certainly aware of) the seemingly endemic corruption that is politics and what can we ordinary people possibly do about it?

While that question remains in the realm of fantasy – and “Dave” is a fantasy – it is still a valid question.

We all know that 'politics' is fundamentally a web-like skein of favors and vested interests stretching back to the beginning of any politician’s career.

Kickbacks and cronyism are the currency of politics and its language is based on the question, “what’s in it for me?” – or ‘my constituents’, meaning the people I owe favors to back home.

“Dave” examines what could happen if an innocent were catapulted into the White House without the ‘favor’ baggage that every ‘real’ candidate unfortunately carries with him?

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Tom is a contributor to public debate on issues affecting our survival; works with a London and a South African think tank, is a working journalist and author.
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