‘Totally Under Control’ review: New Alex Gibney documentary offers an incisive and infuriating critique of the Trump administration’s inept coronavirus response.

And now, he brings us “Totally Under Control,” an incisive, lucid and infuriating critique of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic that Gibney co-directed with Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger. In the old days of film stock and editing room, we’d say that this timely narrative has arrived “dripping wet.” Indeed, this is such an up-to-the-minute account that the filmmakers were able to add a dismally ironic postscript that, just a day after completing the movie, President Trump himself would be diagnosed with covid-19.

Obeying the meticulous, metronomic rhythms of a classic procedural, “Totally Under Control” takes viewers back to what seems like another age, when a mysterious flu in Wuhan, China, was ravaging that community. Starting with the first known case in Washington state, the pandemic arrives on U.S. shores, and the misjudgments, missed opportunities and scrambled responses begin. Tests are hurriedly prepared but prove faulty, and an easy fix is inexplicably overlooked; the federal government pits states against each other in an obscene bidding war for badly-needed supplies; American citizens are given confusing and contradictory messages about the severity of the disease and the most appropriate ways to fight it; tough lessons learned by the previous administration, which battled its own outbreaks, are abandoned in favor of an ad hoc, often incoherent, reinvention of myriad wheels.

Meanwhile, the fatalities pile up. In addition to creating a concise, tonally understated compendium of damning facts and figures, “Totally Under Control” provides a useful comparison with South Korea, which the filmmakers present in side-by-side scenes: In the United States, people come to blows over whether to wear masks while in Seoul, a rapid-response testing and tracing program keeps outbreaks to a minimum and a complete economic shutdown at bay.

To anyone who has followed the news of the pandemic, “Totally Under Control” doesn’t break much news — although one of its most piquant moments features a grandson of Robert F. Kennedy providing a firsthand description of the shambolic, all-volunteer supply-chain effort overseen by Jared Kushner to procure personal protection equipment. Rick Bright, who recently resigned his post as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, is particularly convincing as the kind of apolitical technocrat that the Trump administration seems singularly threatened by. Taison Bell, a physician at the University of Virginia, delivers moving testimony, not just regarding the devastating effects of covid-19, but its disproportionate effect on communities of color.

Gibney and his team were intent on releasing “Totally Under Control” before the election, although it’s difficult to discern whether it will tip any scales (although it will be hard for Forever Trumpers to ignore mask manufacturer Michael Bowen, whose pleas to the president for whom he voted to ramp up production go unheeded). Matters of objective science and empirical observation have now become so mired in partisanship, authoritarian narrative and conspiracy blather that even a film this judicious and straightforwardly informative feels doomed to reach no further than its own self-selected constituency. Should open-minded viewers decide

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Documentary shows Obama years through photographer’s lens

Pete Souza served as the official White House photographer for a pair of two-term presidents, one a Republican hero, Ronald Reagan, and a Democratic hero: Barack Obama.

The son of Portuguese emigres, a nurse and a boat mechanic, Souza earned his master’s degree at Kansas State University and got his start in photojournalism at newspapers in Chanute and Hutchinson.

His lavish account of the Obama years, “Obama: An Intimate Portrait,” became a best-seller, and Souza followed it up with “Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents.” The new documentary “The Way I See It” grew out of those two books, and Souza’s subsequent tours and speaking engagements on the subject of the approximately 2 million photos he took during the Obama years.

The movie, which played at theaters in some cities, airs at 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, on MSNBC.

Once Donald Trump took office, Souza says in the documentary, he couldn’t ignore the man’s disrespect for the office, for the rule of law, for so many people around the world. He says he couldn’t remain neutral about anything political anymore. “This is not a partisan thing to me,” he says in director Dawn Porter’s portrait of the onetime fly on the wall turned visual activist. “It’s about the dignity of the office of the presidency.”

The results pack a serious emotional wallop if you miss the Obama era. And, probably, nothing of the sort if you don’t.

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One of Pete Souza’s most famous photos shows Jacob Philadelphia, 5, the son of a White House staff member, touching President Barack Obama’s hair to see if it feels like his. PETE SOUZA White House

With a lot of input from Souza, Porter’s film tells the stories behind the photos. Many have become famous, profoundly moving emblems of one politician’s humanity, such as the 2009 image “Hair Like Mine.” You probably know it: It captures the moment when 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia touched the head of the president to see if Obama’s hair felt like his own.

Souza enjoyed an unprecedented degree of access to the inner workings, private meetings and unguarded moments of the Obama administration. His job under Reagan and, later, Obama, meant a constant if low-key push for more of that access. Trump shut all that down, confining White House photographers to a few canned photos.

“The Way I See It” introduces us to Souza’s family; his life, now in Madison, Wisconsin (he’s seen buying kale at the weekend farmers market by the capitol building, which is the most Madison thing imaginable); and generous excerpts from various public talks and presentations in the U.S. and abroad. Tour footage-dependent documentaries such as this one carry a built-in limitation; we get a sense of how the subject and the work operate in a friendly public sphere, but it’s sometimes at the expense of more difficult or ambiguous alleyways.

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Pete Souza, shown at the White House in 2013, was the official photographer for Presidents Ronald Regan and Barack Obama. Charles Dharapak, File AP Photo
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How to watch documentary on White House photographer Pete Souza, ‘The Way I See It’

The Way I See It is a documentary about former Chief Official White House Photographer Pete Souza that makes its TV debut on MSNBC tonight, Friday, October 9, at 10 p.m. ET following The Rachel Maddow Show. You can also watch it on FuboTV, Sling or Hulu + Live (free trial).

Pete Souza was the Chief Official White House Photographer to both President Obama and President Reagan. One of Souza’s most iconic photos is of Obama bending over for a 5-year-old boy who asked him, “Is my haircut just like yours?” Obama let the young boy feel his hair, and Souza got a shot of this precious moment.

In the role of White House photographer, Souza had unprecedented access behind-the-scenes to both presidents’ administrations, documented in his books “Obama: An Intimate Portrait,” and “Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents,” in which he compares Obama to President Donald Trump. In The Way I See It, you’ll get access to see the Obama and Reagan administrations through the eyes of Souza.

What channel is MSNBC on?

You can find which channel MSNBC is on by using the channel finders here: Verizon Fios, AT&T U-verse, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum/Charter, Optimum/Altice, DIRECTV and Dish.

Where can I watch The Way I See It if I don’t have cable?

You can live stream it on FuboTV (7-day free trial, then $59.99/month). FuboTV is a streaming service that offers access to your favorite TV shows, live sports events and much more. You can also watch it on Sling with their Blue package, or on Hulu + Live (free trial).

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New documentary details Jimmy Carter’s beat-backed road to White House

The presidential campaigns of yesteryear were very different from the race unfolding today — and one in particular had musical backing. Who knew that in 1976 the Allman Brothers Band helped push little-known Georgia Sen.Jimmy Carter into the White House?



a group of people standing in a room: President Jimmy Carter kisses singer Cher as her husband Gregg Allman stands by, second from right, during a reception at the White House in Washington, Jan. 21, 1977 held by the Carters for the Georgia Peanut Brigade, a group of campaign workers. (AP Photo/Peter Bregg)


© Provided by Boston Herald
President Jimmy Carter kisses singer Cher as her husband Gregg Allman stands by, second from right, during a reception at the White House in Washington, Jan. 21, 1977 held by the Carters for the Georgia Peanut Brigade, a group of campaign workers. (AP Photo/Peter Bregg)

Or Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson for that matter?

Reminded that these legends helped make a peanut farmer president, Mary Wharton and her producing partner Chris Farrell knew this was a story to tell and they named it, “Jimmy Carter Rock N Roll President,” which will be in theaters and virtual cinemas Wednesday.

“This touches on a lot of things,” Wharton said. “We use Carter’s connection to music as the lens through which we view his story. Hopefully, it’s kind of a new way of looking at Jimmy Carter.

“The power of music to change people’s minds, to change the world really, is so evident in Carter’s story — that was what was so exciting me.



a group of people posing for the camera: President Jimmy Carter greets Willie Nelson, left, after watching the star country and western music singer perform in a concert at the Merriweather Post Pavillion at Columbia, Md., on July 21, 1978. Nelson performed along with country western singer Many Lou Morris for the President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter who joined thousands of young people for the show. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)


© Provided by Boston Herald
President Jimmy Carter greets Willie Nelson, left, after watching the star country and western music singer perform in a concert at the Merriweather Post Pavillion at Columbia, Md., on July 21, 1978. Nelson performed along with country western singer Many Lou Morris for the President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter who joined thousands of young people for the show. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)

“It’s multilayered and an interesting story hiding in plain sight in a way. It was no secret,” she continued, “it was all right there! But I had never heard it in spite of all my years working as a music documentary maker.”

The Allman Brothers’ first Carter benefit in Rhode Island led to the others, generating immediate cash to buy TV spots.

“We paint a portrait of Jimmy Carter through this lens of music,” Wharton said, “and come away with an understanding of who he is as a man.”

“To find solace during the challenging situations he was dealing with every day,” Wharton added, “he would retire to his office and listen to gospel music. Specifically, Willie Nelson’s gospel record.”

After Carter quoted a Bob Dylan lyric in a campaign speech, the  two met. On film Dylan says, “That was the first time I realized my songs had reached into the Establishment world. It made me uneasy. He put me at ease by not talking down to me.”

That summer Gregg Allman was busted buying pharmaceutical cocaine; to avoid prison he testified against the band’s roadie. Carter refused to distance himself from his friend. In fact, Allman and his then-wife Cher were guests at his first White House seated dinner.

“One of the things that was so great about that story is it’s a fantastic example

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