I saw the doc in Rotterdam a couple of years ago, and it’s a straightforward and worthwhile pic that tries to throw some balance on the public’s reckoning of Rudy Giuliani. Before 9/11, Giuliani was suffering a severe case of second-term lethargy, forgoing any sense of mayoral ambition and instead initiating regressive policies targeting welfare recipients and the homeless, among others. (For those who wonder how Giuliani cleaned up N.Y.’s “homeless problem,” this film tells you how, and it’s not pretty.)
Then, of course, 9/11 happened, and, to my mind, Giuliani deserves all the credit he’s received for his performance that day and in the weeks afterward. Keating, however, who began his film in 1998 following the Abner Louima police beating, is not interested in either hagiography or hatchet job. He’s merely reminding viewers of this potential presidental candidate’s earlier record and also, importantly, stepping back and examining the social and political trends that reshaped New York City around the turn of the century.
From the piece:
Might this movie actually help Giuliani gain support among Republicans who might not like the fact that he supports abortion and gay rights, but see him here as tough on crime and welfare?
I think that is an interesting notion. [The film] isn’t just a political rant. It’s not a hit job. I made every effort. Come and see the film—conservatives, liberals, everyone—and let’s continue the discussion because those issues are raised in the film.
You started making this film in ’98, which was a surprise to learn.
We started three days after Amadou Diallo was killed. I was sitting in the office with [former New York City police commissioner William] Bratton, we were just touching on the police and First Amendment issues. And Bratton was saying the street-crime unit is out of control and Giuliani is behaving in a way that’s not helping matters. Then a few weeks later it was the Brooklyn Museum. From that moment on, it was almost weekly, something enormous would happen. We shot 300 hours of film. It took us five years to edit this film.
You can’t deny that New York is safer and cleaner.
But the economy exploded. That’s what happens. You have these cycles. Three or four thousand heroin addicts, street junkies, died of AIDS in that period. That’s three or four thousand guys who existed by stealing purses, by breaking and entering to support their habit. So you’re going to have tens of thousands of petty crimes that are not going to happen. The “Freakonomics” argument that the cohort of young men who didn’t come into existence because abortion was legalized in ‘73: they would have been 20, 21. It was a perfect storm for Giuliani. It’s the old root-causes argument versus this notion that more cops means no felony crime.