Our Nixon, a documentary about the Nixon presidency that will open to the public in select theaters across the U.S. and Canada this week, is remarkable for many reasons. But perhaps most remarkable of all is its source: Home movies made by Nixon staffers who obsessively shot footage of their world travels with the president.
Today, that seems almost unimaginable. "I doubt that anyone is letting anyone walk around with their iPhone 5 and make movies inside the White House," said Penny Lane, the film's director and co-producer. "It's just not the same world. One of the ways that the Nixon presidency changed presidencies was, oh guess what, no one's going to write anything down any more. I don't know what future filmmakers and historians will look back on from this era. I don't know what our Obama will be like in 40 years."
But even though the president's staffers are less likely to record his every move, it's ironic that the president has become much more likely to chronicle our every move. Forty years ago, government officials had to hire people to steal documents and install phone taps in order to spy on their enemies. Today, with the NSA gathering email and phone metadata on U.S. citizens, that lack of sophistication is almost unimaginable.