The United States’ House of Representatives has a new speaker, Wisconsin’s theo-con Paul Ryan, who, during the inaugural ceremony, refused to hug Nancy Pelosi (in order to prevent a retaliation from the Tea Party) and has already stated that he refuses to cooperate with Obama to unlock the immigration bill which has been stalled for over two years.

The 91-year-old former President George H.W. Bush throws his shoes at the television at the mere appearance of Donald Trump, a pain in the neck for the presidential campaign of his favorite son, Jeb.

Hillary has brilliantly survived the parliamentary commission over the Benghazi attack, the traditional appearance at the Saturday Night Live and the looming ghost of Joe Biden’s entry into the race.

The New York Times dedicated an article to Bernie Sanders’ coldness toward the voters and to the fact that he doesn’t hug children.

Nearly two months from the primaries, the election mood is more and more palpable. At night on TV the absence of Jon Stewart’s scathing sarcasm is very much felt, as it would have been incredibly comical in dealing with the war declared by the Republican Party on the unlucky financial network CNBC, deemed responsible by the GOP’s president for having sabotaged the latest debate.

However, on all the news channels, the presidential elections — even though not yet officially started — are the real deal.

From small to big screens, it is normal for autumn to be the time of year when talk about politics get mixed with those on the Oscars, whose promotional campaigns hide intrigues worthy of Scandal.

Three years ago, to avoid controversies on the eve of the elections, Sony postponed the release of Zero Dark Thirty from October to December. This film has proven to be very controversial, and lately it has been on the newspapers again due to an article by Seymour Hersh for the London Review of Books in which the story of Osama Bin Laden’s murder is told in an entirely new way by the reporter who unveiled the My Lai massacre.

In autumn 2014 there was no race for the White House in sight, but nevertheless American Sniper came to embody the division between the blue collar America that spent over $350 million on tickets to see the film and the political-cultural elite who produced it.

[do action=”citazione”]The most explosive Hollywood title of the next year will be Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.[/do]

The most explosive Hollywood title of the year is not going to compete at the Academy Awards as it will be released in January (a few weeks ahead of Iowa’s caucus) but, despite only a few brief sequences have been shown, it’s already a cult classic. Like Zero Dark Thirty and American Sniper, it’s taken from a recent chapter in American history.

Behind the camera is neither Bigelow’s ferocious intellect nor Eastwood’s highly clear and subversive intuition, but rather a director whose cinematic brand has proven to deserve a neologism of its own: “bayhem,” a mixture of his surname and mayhem. The author of Pearl Harbor, four Transformers installments and the self-ironic Pain & Gain is the man chosen by Paramount to bring on screen 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, based on a book by the esteemed journalist Mitchell Zuckoff (author as well of an enjoyable oral biography of Robert Altman), that recounts the attack on the American Consulate in Libya during which, on Sept. 11, 2012, the Ambassador Chris Stephens and three men from the security squad died, told from the point of view of the six soldiers of the Special Forces who tried to rescue them.

“Stand down.” This line, brilliantly included in the film’s trailer that’s been circulating since August, was enough to cause a rush of joy among Fox News’ commentators, endorsers of a conspiracy theory that deems Washington — if not Hillary Clinton herself — responsible for having blocked the rescuers and therefore decreed the four Americans’ deaths.

Years of inquiries and testimonies have proven otherwise, and so far they have not been able to impede Hillary’s candidacy.

Who knows, however, what kind of effect it will have — at the beginning of the primary election season and through the filter of Bayhem’s chauvinistic point of view — to see the Ambassador Stevens trapped in a building on fire while six hefty mercenaries try to save him from a crowd of howling fundamentalists? Bay has stated that he’s been faithful to the “facts” as they were described in Zuckoff’s book and by the mercenaries themselves.

Some of the contractors even took part to a restricted press meeting held in New York, put under embargo by Paramount. The Studio is aware of handling a hot potato: At first it even contemplated the idea to put off the film’s release (but it would have been even worse).

Meanwhile, objections are already being raised in Libya since the Ambassador was pulled out of the building and brought to the hospital by Libyans rather than Americans, who lost his trace during the course of the mission.

There’s one more film concerning the dangerous outcome of U.S. intervention abroad. This time, however, we switch from Bay’s turgid and right-wing aesthetics to an acid, edgy and left-wing movie loosely inspired by a political campaign held in 2003 and by a documentary that described it: Rachel Boynton’s Our Brand Is Crisis. Starring Sandra Bullock, directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) and produced by George Clooney, the film that just came out in the States keeps the same title as the documentary, but transforms the protagonist (Bullock) into a woman. That is the American political consultant, who, in 2002, orchestrated Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada’s victory in Bolivia’s presidential race with the support of both the oligarchy and the International Monetary Fund.

In reality, the aforementioned consultant belonged to a Washington group co-founded by James Carville, the Cajun strategist who triumphantly brought Bill Clinton to the White House in ’92. In Gordon Green’s film, Bullock is “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a Machiavellian star of the American political backstage who now makes terracotta mugs in a lodge due to a nervous breakdown after one political campaign too many. Hired to resurrect the fate of a rich, lazy and unfit South-American candidate, who’s losing ground to a younger and charismatic populist, Calamity Jane does exactly what she’s asked to: She turns to the weapon of fear, making up a “crisis” that only an “experienced professional” can solve and turns the unfit Joaquim de Almeida into the head of Bolivia’s government.

The cynical gaze on the electoral machine that gets de Almeida elected (and that back in 2002 made de Gonzada president) is also meant to be a reflection about the present.

Clooney is an enlightened producer. He enjoys a cinema that is rooted in the political activism of ’70s directors like Sydney Pollack, even though in this film the tone is more irreverent. Our Brand is Crisis shows a light form of American intervention, without “boots on the ground” or mercenaries armed to the teeth. But the people’s uprising, which ends the film, proves that the outcomes are often very similar.

(Translated by Giovanna Maria Branca)

–> Originally published in Italian at il manifesto on Nov. 4 2015