Hot Docs 2014: The Joe Show Review

The Joe Show

The Joe Show

World Showcase

Joe Arpaio is a pretty horrible person, but he’s also a famous person so he gets away with a lot. The self-appointed toughest sheriff of America turned a job in public office into a vehicle for superstardom. In the early 2000s, he started pulling ridiculous stunts like forcing prisoners to wear pink underwear during transfers or bringing back chain gangs and  became one of those ludicrous talking points on news programs. Soon he was evening backing reality shows like Steven Segal’s ludicrous lawman series. The trouble is that with great fame comes great assholes and soon the police and jail staffs overseen by Arpaio became unforgivably corrupt. Prisoners were beaten to death with no repercussions, over 400 sex crimes were ignored so that the police could focus on illegal immigrations, and countless other offences that led to millions of dollars worth of lawsuits. Unfortunately, Arpaio’s fame-craving ways (he also was the one who launched the campaign to find Obama’s birth certificate) have ensured he’s still in power despite all that. Thankfully, he’s also egotistical enough to have allowed director Randy Murray to follow him around with cameras for his ride to fame and infamy.

The Joe Show is one of those special documentaries that exist because the subject was too arrogant and delusional to realize what he signed up for. Murray’s cameras capture not just Arpaio’s pathetic explanations for the crimes he’s ignored, but also some particularly embarrassing meetings (including the one when his advisors tell him what a terrible idea it is to go after Obama), and even get him singing a couple of musical numbers to the camera. His narcissism is astounding to behold and while the first half of the film plays as a comedic take down of an idiot, the ultimate tone of The Joe Show is tragic.

This isn’t just a clown who came to power, but a horrible person whose abuse of power is unconscionable. Yet, thanks to the great American drug of fame, he’s lost none of his support (both Ted Nugent and Steven Segal are more than happy to sing his praises on screen). The film is a vital exploration of how easily the media and political machine can be used and abused and also happens to be one of the most entertaining documentaries you’ll ever see. Not to be missed!  (Phil Brown)


Friday, April 25, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 6:30pm

Saturday April 26, Isabel Bader Theatre, 11:00am

Thursday, May 1, ROM Theatre, 6:30pm

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