Later this week, Little Rock will be the site of the Arkansas Cinema Society’s FILMLAND 2019. In anticipation of that (and in honor of today being Bill Clinton’s birthday), today we feature a film which showcased Little Rock’s role in the national political scene: THE WAR ROOM.
This Oscar-nominated 1993 American documentary film follows Bill Clinton’s campaign for President of the United States, during the 1992 presidential election. At the start of the 1992 Democratic primaries, husband and wife filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus requested permission from the Campaign to film its progression.
The Clinton Campaign agreed, and Pennebaker and Hegedus were allowed to film Communications Director George Stephanopoulos as well as Lead Strategist James Carville; they were given limited access to Bill Clinton. At the start of filming, the film team was embedded with the Clinton Campaign in New Hampshire for that state’s Democratic primary. During the onset of the campaign, the film crew traveled around the state with the Clinton campaign.
After the surprise Clinton second place finish in the New Hampshire primary, the crew filmed mostly in Little Rock, home to the Clinton campaign’s national headquarters. As the film focused in on Carville and Stephanopoulos, the film crew saw no need to travel outside of Little Rock as both were present in the city for much if not all of the primary and general election campaigns.
Because of the time spent in Little Rock, numerous buildings and backgrounds familiar to the capital city residents appear throughout the film. Jason D. Williams’ song “Get Back to Little Rock” is featured in the film’s soundtrack.
Though Stephanopoulos and Carville were the film’s main figures, many other prominent figures in the campaign were featured, including Paul Begala, Dee Dee Myers, Mandy Grunwald, Bob Boorstin, Stan Greenberg, Mickey Kantor, Harold Ickes, and Bush deputy campaign manager Mary Matalin, who later married Carville. Also featured in footage are rivals George H. W. Bush, Ross Perot and Jerry Brown.
Though the film did not win the Oscar for Feature Documentary, Pennebaker would receive an Honorary Oscar in 2013.