Written and directed by Eric Tretbar
83 min., color, USA
In the tradition of Robert Altman’s Secret Honor (1984) and last year’s Frost/Nixon play, INQ409 depicts the imagined, behind-the-scenes machinations of the Bush Cabinet as it interrogates a high-value prisoner aboard Air Force One.
In the New Yorker magazine (July 9, 2007), Hendrik Hertzberg speculated that “…sometime in the late 2030s,” someone will follow Frost/Nixon with “CHENEY/BUSH…packed with drama, palace intrigue, and black comedy.” But why wait 30 years? INQ409 is here today.
Adapted from Dostoyevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor, INQ409 replaces the Spanish Inquisition with The Bush Administration as the cynical manipulators of political freedom and religious symbols. Aboard Air Force One, the Bush Cabinet–one by one–tells its secret prisoner why his existence and revolutionary messages of Love and Free Will must never be revealed to the public.
At first it might be Bin Laden. But slowly, it’s revealed to be Jesus. “What You want to give us, we can’t use,” says Karl Rove, “because we have no use for priceless things.” INQ409 shows how those who would deny freedom to anyone only torture themselves.
Dostoyevsky’s use of Jesus as the ethical and dramatic foil to earthly political cynicism translates powerfully to Bush and Co.’s perversions of U.S. political ideals and institutions. In INQ409, Jesus stands for the timeless concepts which will forever confound Caesars’ will to power: sympathy, free will, and a refusal to perpetuate cycles of vengeance.
By imagining Bush officials in their moments of deepest cynicism and self-deception, INQ409 aims to remind current candidates and citizens of the horrible cost of not reclaiming our embattled civil liberties–Habeas Corpus, freedom of speech, rights to privacy, and congressional checks and balances of executive powers.
INQ409 is designed to stir indignation at the Bush Administration’s destruction of our civil rights and democratic values. It also aims to give hope that freedom is always possible. In the end of INQ409, Bush discovers just that. Jesus has escaped, and Bush frantically calls in a guard:
Bush: Where’s the prisoner?
Guard: Gone, Sir.
Bush: But–how did he get out?
Guard: I believe he used the door.
Bush: It wasn’t locked?
Guard: (smiling) It’s never locked, Sir.
Since 1992, filmmaker Eric Tretbar has produced 5 feature films which have won an audience award (1992 Berlin Film Fest), an Independent Spirit Award nomination (1999), a Teddy Award (Best Documentary 2004), screened at world festivals, aired on NBC, sold to European TV, and premiered on the Sundance Channel. Tretbar now turns his camera to the Bush Administration for an election season video drama.