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HENRY FONDA FOR PRESIDENT

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by Alexander Horwath

grade: 7.5

Cinema, as we well know, is the mirror of our days, of the historical moments we live or have lived through, of our culture and identity. And this is precisely the idea behind this important Henry Fonda for President. At the Berlinale 2024, Forum section.

In the film history our history

Telling the history of a nation, different historical periods, many different stories through the biography of a single character. Quite a complex task, no doubt. Complex, but not impossible to achieve. All it takes is to find the right key so that words and pictures can give life to something ‘bigger’. The author and film historian Alexander Horwath has therefore undertaken this arduous task with his debut documentary Henry Fonda for President, which premiered at the Berlinale 2024 in the Forum section.

Henry Fonda for President, therefore, was born first and foremost from a fundamental encounter for Horwath himself. The (virtual) encounter he had, in 1980, inside a cinema, precisely with actor Henry Fonda, who from then on became a sort of idol for him. But, if we look closely at each individual role played by Fonda over the course of his long and prolific career, the discourse that can be derived from it is, in reality, much broader and more complex. Alexander Horwath knows this well. And, through a scrupulous analysis of numerous films, he has in fact created a broad fresco concerning the United States of yesterday and today.

Henry Fonda for President is in effect a monumental work. A documentary that, through a sophisticated editing job, puts together scenes from some of the most significant films played by Fonda, together with excerpts from interviews and footage shot for the occasion. The history of the Fonda family is retraced stage by stage. For many years, Henry Fonda was considered the ‘typical American’, but also ‘the conscience of the United States’. Some even jokingly wanted to make him a candidate for President of the United States. But, unlike his colleague Ronald Reagan, the Grand Island actor was never interested in a possible career in politics.

Cinema, then, as we all know, is the mirror of our days, of the historical moments we live or have lived through, of our culture and identity. And this is precisely the idea on which this important Henry Fonda for President is based. The recent history of the United States, but also sensitive and controversial issues such as democracy and the status of women within the society in which we live are topics that soon become central in Horwath’s work. And yet, in their topicality, they are never analysed in a rhetorical or banal way, but, on the contrary, in coming to life from what the seventh art has given us, they are exposed to us in a captivating and exciting way, within a documentary that can be watched with increasing interest.

Alexander Horwath has undoubtedly found the right solution to stage all this, while at the same time creating a sincere and personal homage not only to one of the actors who played a major role during his education, but also to the film world itself. His Henry Fonda for President is, in this sense, an essential work that, in its imposing and well-researched staging, could pave the way for a series of chapters that, starting precisely from the history of cinema, meticulously analyse every single aspect of the world in which we live.

Original title: Henry Fonda for President
Directed by: Alexander Horwath
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 2024
Running time: 184’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Alexander Horwath
Cinematography: Michael Palm
Produced by: Mischief Films, Medea Film Factory

Info: the page of Henry Fonda for President on iMDb; the page of Henry Fonda for President on the website of the Berlinale; the page of Henry Fonda for President on the website of the Mischief Films