It was an autumn day 26 years ago. As an unknown assistant director, I got thrilled with the thought that I would produce an incredibly touching but witty film just as “Dave” I saw in the movie theater.
While Dave runs a placement bureau in a small city in the United States, the typical 40-something man has a side job impersonating U.S. president thanks to his looks to replace him in minor events. The first day he completes his mission successfully, the real president suffers a severe stroke, which leaves him in a coma. Although the national catastrophe of high urgency should be reported immediately to the vice president, the secret service agent, in his eagerness to achieve presidency, tells Dave to pretend to be the president so that they can deceive even the first lady into believing that things are just as normal. As Dave’s frankness and modesty unexpectedly lead to higher approval ratings, the secret service agent is taken aback. Despite the agent’s scheme to remove Dave, he gets his mission done perfectly. The two-hour-long film is just like a fun but touching book that you can finish reading in one go.
Replaying the film, the job of a president has a lot in common with that of a film director. You will never turn your artistic inspirations into a work of art on your own. The role and virtue of a film director is to identify others’ talent, assign roles to those who fit them, encourage everyone involved to maximize their potential and harmonize all of works done by the crew. Personal emotions and subjective judgement should be taken out of the equation. Frugality is essential to administrating production budget that comes out of investors. It was not until I became a film director when I learned that my job makes me lonely and afraid. Things make me think that I am not supposed to be a whiny complainer. As a film director, I feel a great sense of responsibility on my shoulders because no excuse is allowed.
For every step taken, president finds himself or herself under the media spotlight not as a subject of curiosity and attention but rather as that of surveillance. Dave says in his final speech that the right way to go is to ponder upon what’s right, not seeking popularity, which will serve as a compass for wannabe leaders to pave their way. Film staffers and actors spare no effort to contribute when they respect their director. In the movie, a bodyguard who treats Dave high-handedly makes an impressive comment by the end of the movie. Dave asks him if he could throw himself to prevent Dave from being shot soon after starting to work as the president’s replacement. Then, the bodyguard avoids answering his question. However, he confesses later that he is willing to die for Dave right before Dave goes back to his normal life.
Dave is reminiscent of actor-turned president Ronald Reagan. Even if he was not among the political elite, he became one of the most loved U.S. presidents in history by instilling optimism and faith in the country that was on the decline. An anecdote of Reagan with a great sense of humor can give a lesson to Koreans who slander the other side in fury and anger while being politically divided. Early in his term, Reagan was shot in the chest and transferred to the operation room. He made a joke to the operating surgeon with a nervous look on his face, saying, “Please tell me you’re Republicans.” Then, the surgeon, close to tears, replied, “Mr. President, we all are Republicans today.”