I would describe All the President’s Men as the Citizen Kane of journalism films if Citizen Kane was not itself, a journalism film. The classic film starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman tells the legendary story of the greatest piece of investigative journalism in American history. The film details Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s uncovering of the Watergate scandal which eventually led to President Nixon’s resignation.
All the President’s Men is one of my favourite films of all time. I probably watch it at least once a month. The last time I watched it was in the lecture theatre in Cardiff University’s journalism department the night before attending a guest lecture by Carl Bernstein himself.
The film is so effective because it is essentially a dramatised documentary. There isn’t any distractingly large performances or over-ambitious camera angles. Redford and Hoffman may have been at the top of their games here, but in All the President’s Men the plot is the star.
What a journalist can learn from the film?
The thing which I think I took away from the film was how important tenacity is to a journalist. This story did not land straight into the laps of Bernstein and Woodward, they had to work for it. This story started out as a small burglary at a hotel, it was these two reporters at the Washington Post who saw something in the story that others didn’t. The pair kept following the money, chasing the leads until they uncovered one of the biggest stories in American history.
The film demonstrates this so well. The endless shots of Woodward and Bernstein knocking on peoples doors only to have the person behind it slam it in their face. One scene shows the pair going through endless library record cards, spending hours doing so only to come up with nothing. This film shows that some of the most boring and thankless tasks may in the end be worth the effort.
Let me know what you think of the film by tweeting your thoughts to @nickjhp and use the hash-tag #JournoFilms.