Ben Carson in PACMen


Once upon a time, a man ran for President of The United States and actually declared during a television interview that he believed The Great Pyramids in Egypt were built by Joseph to store grain.

His candidacy survived that idiotic declaration. I know, I’m surprised too.

As we all well know, America went to the polls in 2016. They were tasked with electing a successor to Barack Obama. The opposing party – The Republicans – anxious to take power back after eight long years locked out of The White House, trotted out candidate after candidate as a potential party leader. At its height, the field clocked-in at a whopping seventeen candidates to choose from.

Several of them had never served a day in public office. One was named Dr. Ben Carson, and PACMEN is about the Super PAC team working behind the scenes on his campaign for Republican leadership.

What’s amazing to witness in PACMEN is the way a candidate is sold to a base. Consider that for a moment: they don’t have greatness thrust upon them, do not rise to greatness, they are packaged up and sold to hungry masses as the latest and greatest. People’s expression as Carson presents himself (or more often, as someone else presents him) rival that of people being sold a timeshare…or Amway products…or both.

No narration takes place to bring context. No interviews are given straight-to-camera. Neither are needed. Simply by looking and listening, we are able to get a much deeper understanding of the Republican base than we ever have, and make a correlation between those who seek God’s blessings, and those who believe they’ve been blessed.

This is the American electoral process at work. If it seems similar to English farming villages turning to a swordsman to protect that years crops from approaching thieves…well…

For the record: This isn’t a film about Ben Carson (does anybody need or want that?). This is a film about a conservative group that prayed, worked, and passed the hat around in the hopes of getting their man elected. “Their man” didn’t need to have vision or experience.  All “their man” had to be was Christian and out to protect their interests…and Carson was both so he would do.

If anyone doubts this approach, or why the American right takes it, the film’s closing moments will go a long way in underlining the truth.

When historians look back on the surreal American election of 2016, some will wonder how anyone ever thought that Ben Carson’s candidacy was a good idea. PACMEN will go a long way in filling in some of the blanks.


PACMEN plays at Hot Docs 2017 on Tuesday, May 2nd, 7pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox. It plays again on Wednesday, May 3rd, 3:30, at Hart House Theatre, and again on Friday, May 5th, 11am at Lightbox. It then plays once more at The Fox Theatre, on Saturday May 6th – 12:30pm. (official website)