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Hot Docs 2017 ‘PACmen’ Review: A Baffling Look At The Forces Driving Conservative Politics



PACmen, offers an up close look at two fundraising independent political action committees (super PACs) that backed Ben Carson’s bid for president of the United States. Director Luke Walker’s behind-the-scenes look at conservative politics makes for compelling viewing even if you’re not a political junkie. Fans of Bill Maher, Samantha Bee, and The Daily Show‘s right-wing skewerings should go ahead and place PACmen on their must-watch list right now.

‘Ben Carson’

Dr. Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who became an overnight sensation after he delivered an infamous keynote speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. Carson rocketed through the Republican Party ranks and landed himself an unlikely spot on the presidential campaign trail. His intellectual background and frank candour made him a dream candidate, but there was a problem: Carson didn’t know much about current political discourse, foreign policy, or Egyptian farming practices.

PACmen isn’t as openly didactic as a Michael Moore doc, but the film’s themes are just as political. Walker doesn’t invade corporate headquarters or stand in front of congress shouting through a megaphone to make his point. Instead, he steps back and lets the film’s cast of character speak for themselves. What unfolds is a political Gong Show featuring the campaign’s big-money men, grass-roots level troopers, and the human gaffe-machine himself, Ben Carson.


Carson’s groundswell of support speaks to the growing divide between politicians and the public. People are fed up with politicians, and would rather vote for an unqualified, inexperienced, uninformed celebrity — and I’m not referring to Trump. PACmen dissects the mindset behind the Carson/Trump movement, and provides an opportunity to empathise. The film depicts Carson supporters as hard-working, well-intentioned, and horribly-misinformed people. Even though some of us may never agree with Carson’s fan-club, PACmen helps us understand the other side.

Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based pop culture writer and film critic who enjoys covering the city's biggest (and nerdiest) events. Victor has covered TIFF, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada for publications all over the internet. You can find his latest posts on Twitter and Instagram.

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