The Nine Lives of Marion Barry | Chicago Reader

The Nine Lives of Marion Barry

Dignity may be out of Marion Barry’s reach at this point, but documentary makers Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer manage to invest him with a respectable sense of tragedy. A defiant civil rights activist with a deep emotional connection to Washington, D.C., Barry was elected mayor in 1978 and enjoyed a successful first term, but charges of adultery and cocaine abuse dogged him throughout the 80s. The infamous 1990 video of him smoking crack in a hotel room would have been enough to end most political careers, yet Barry came out of prison to win another term as mayor in 1994. The documentary is framed by his quixotic 2004 campaign to represent Washington’s poverty-stricken Ward 8 in the city council; he won that race too, tested positive for cocaine a year later, and was returned to office by a landslide in 2008. The unpleasant implication is that Barry’s beleaguered constituents love him not in spite of his weakness but because of it. 79 min.


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