By Jef Dinsmore on May 2, 2014 to Documentaries

Doc-logoOverview: Feisty, fiery, tough, unafraid, a force of nature…and funny as hell. These are a few of the terms that were used to describe Ann Richards, one of the most charismatic American political figures of the last 30 years. This compelling portrait tells her remarkable story, from the young girl who grew up poor in rural Texas to the beloved national icon and Democratic leader who rose to power in a conservative stronghold. ALL ABOUT ANN features interviews with close friends, family members and admirers, including former husband David Richards, daughter Cecile and son Dan, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Dan Rather, Tom annrichards01_thBrokaw, Michael Dukakis and Liz Smith, as well as Claire Korioth, her campaign consultant, Mary Beth Rogers, her chief of staff, Suzanne Coleman, a longtime speechwriter, Ronald Kirk, former mayor of Dallas, and Henry Cisneros, former mayor of San Antonio.

Expectations: Sometimes I just don’t know what drives people to watch documentaries on certain subjects. This film is a case in point. If you are young enough then you have no clue who Ann Richards even was, so if is safe to say this documentary would not even attract your interest. What it takes to be interested in ALL ABOUT ANN would have to be those that hold in interest in politics, strong iconic women, feminism, biographies or have an interest in just being educated on a myriad number of topics. Oh, or you are a proud Texan.

I’m watching ALL ABOUT ANN because knowledge is a good thing and because it is a part of my job to do so. I remember Ann Richards in the news but can’t say I remember one damn thing she did worthy for Texas or a single sound bite of note. Obviously, the producer and/or director are Texans, right? Oh, I have no idea and it certainly doesn’t matter one way or the other. Here is the official trailer for the documentary. It quickly sets up, from the words of her daughter, what kind of woman she was and the documentary will cite historical examples to back it up. Let’s go for it!  


Gut Reaction: ALL ABOUT ANN is certainly a through documentary. It covers a lot of ground about the life and career of Ann Richards. It offers many a picture and video, news reports, talking heads from the political scene of the day and friends & family offering memories and testimonies. A top notch biography really, but a bit numbing for so much is packed into this 84 minute piece. The biggest challenge, like I mentioned, is just to convince yourself that you want to commit to the biography in the first place. For those of the right age there are many a moment of recollection and for those unfamiliar you get the complete picture of this lady. If you can stick this film through to its end you will have felt as though you met the woman and were impressed by her.



In Conclusion: Ann Richards was like Texas likes it – BIG. She was big, brassy, bossy, ballsy and aggressive. Hell, she even put a younger Bill Maher and his panel in its place on the precursor show to REAL TIME called Politically Incorrect.  You got to make it to the end of the film to catch it. You can still catch the documentary on HBO on 05.04 at 2:00pm; 05.07 at 8:30am; 05.10 at 10:15am; on HBO2 on 05.13 at 5:45pm; 05.20 at 12:40pm and on HBOGo.     

  • Paul Suarez

    If this review writer (Jef Dinsmore) “can’t say [he] remember[s] . . . a single sound bite of note,” that would mean he doesn’t remember “Poor George. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” Which in turn would mean I don’t think he’s the right writer to be reviewing this documentary.

    Did this film ever make it to DVD?

    • Jef Dinsmore

      I might be the wrong person to tell you this but, there is a DVD, though main outlets like Amazon do not seem to carry it.

      By the way, I am the only reviewer of documentaries on this site. I review them whether I like the subject matter or not and give my ‘gut reaction’ to it. Even though I ended up giving this documentary a favored review for its thoroughness of the topic I did not think much of the person profiled. That more than likely led to me not remembering quotes like you do. They went in one ear and out the other.

      Surely you are not suggesting a writer should only write about a topic if they hold nothing but positive opinions for it? Sorry, but this writer does not work that way.

      • Paul Suarez

        Mr. Dinsmore:

        First, thank you for the link to a review of the DVD showing that a DVD does exist. The reason “main[stream] outlets like Amazon do not seem to carry it” is evident in the name of the organization whose site that link takes one to: School Library Journal (identified on their “About Us” page as “the premiere publication for librarians and information specialists who work with children and teens”). The DVD is apparently in limited distribution for academic institutions. Note the $99.95 price. Common with documentaries such as this, that price contemplates purchase by educational institutions not necessarily individuals. Be all that as it may, I will make some inquiries of distributor Cinema Guild about availability to individuals.

        Second, the latter portion of your third paragraph (“That more than likely led . . “) and your entire last paragraph indicate a misconstruing or misunderstanding of my comment about who should review this DVD. It’s not about personal opinion of the subject matter or partisanship. Rather, it’s about being a student of culture and, more importantly, doing your homework.

        Although I understand the exigencies you refer to in terms of being the only reviewer of documentaries at the site, the quote I refer to was a touchstone politicultural moment from the 1988 Democratic National Convention. It got similar traction/news coverage as, say, Michelle Obama’s speech the week before last at this year’s DNC (and this was before Twitter!). It’s even quoted at Ann Richards’ Wikipedia page (with the following footnoted comment about the speech from which it comes: “Richards’ convention address has been cited by rhetorical experts as a historically significant speech”). T-shirts were made depicting George Bush with a silver spoon in the shape of a foot in his mouth. (And yes, I still have mine amongst my old Rush concert Ts and and other keepsake garments I no longer regularly wear.)

        I also don’t quite understand the logic of your suggesting causality between how you thought about Richards from the docu and your not remembering the quote. It’s as though you’re saying that you were not aware of the quote before seeing the documentary. Is that the case? That’s a little surprising to me. I may have issues with, say, Richard Nixon but that doesn’t mean I’m unaware of his “I am not a crook” comment.

        Even if you were not familiar with the winning quip previously, I would think that quote would be something that would linger on a writer’s mind as a *bon mot* even if one disagreed with it for at least as long as it took to write a review of said documentary.

        I’m suggesting that there are those in the audience you may be trying reach who read a comment like “I remember Ann Richards in the news but can’t say I remember one damn thing she did worthy for Texas or a single sound bite of note” and tentatively, if not resolutely, conclude that you are not well-informed, and that your review of the work at issue therefore can’t be taken seriously. Why not eschew any such personal commentary that arguably damages your credibility?

        The way THIS writer works is that I want as broad an audience as possible to take me seriously on both my presentation of the facts and my opinions such that they can come to their own conclusions, hopefully influenced by what I’ve written.

        • Jef Dinsmore

          First of all let me thank you for your response; I appreciate the critique. i don’t know what to say in rebuttal to you or even if I need to do so. The best I can do is answer you in the style that I always write in — from my gut.

          I want to say that anyone…ANYONE has the right to offer there opinion on any topic. I feel there is no “right” kind of person to cover this documentary or any other. I called it as I felt it; that is how I write.

          So I guess to answer part of your question I have to say I am not a political animal and Anne Richards was never anybody ever on my radar beyond the fact that she was a one-time governor of Texas. Therefore I was eager to review because, as I wrote, it was a profile I could stand to be more knowledgeable on.

          Lastly, and simply I never call myself a journalist just a writer. I am a writer of my opinions and gut feelings of the content before me. It is simple as that. I am not out to gain fans or even credibility. That style of writing is not your style at all and I respect that. Perhaps you even feel that I only belong on a little blog, but I’m not. I’m here on HBOWatch and this is the way I write.

          Hell I have written over 125 documentary reviews for this site (I counted just for you, but lost count at about then) and I guess I’ll recommend that you don’t read any more of them.

          Oh, I do hope you find this DVD at some point.

      • Paul Suarez

        (P.S. – Not only is the quotation in question in the documentary, not only is it featured in a video clip from the documentary in your own review’s presentation on this page, here’s another clip from the documentary in which Dan Rather comments on the momentousness of the speech from which the quotation comes):

        “It’s impossible to understand how many people heard that speech and never forgot it.”

  • Eleonora Iafano

    Jef!! I just watched this documentary on Ann Richards this morning. WOW!!! What an amazing woman: I have and will always be attracted to women who have broken barriers, fought for equal rights, women’s rights, diversity and equity and the LGBT community. What a powerhouse and determined woman. I sat riveted to the edge of my seat. I know that politics is an awful field and often very cut throat, but for a woman in Texas to have the gumption, the drive and the vision to get things “done” by talking straight and not sugar coating things, well, my hats off to her. I know perhaps not everyone will agree with me and that is alright; I’m a Canadian and try to be as objective as possible when it comes to politics in general. I admire Ann Richards for the many things she fought for and it is women like her (and my own mother) that have paved the way for women to have a voice and a face in politics and in general, life. Loved her sarcastic quips, her wit and her blunt way of speaking.

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