Please Remove Your Shoes is a tiny little documentary centered around the historical failures of the FAA and airlines in managing effective air travel security (Exhibits A & B, Pan Am 103 and 9/11) and the continued, even less-effective tenure of the TSA. Produced, directed, and edited by Rob De Gaudio, this film is clearly a labor of passion — his passion to reveal the chinks in our armor, the proximate causes, and to applaud the many public servants out there who might bear the brunt of our dissatisfaction but are doing their best to right the situation in whatever way they can. Del Gaudio finds all manner of interesting and well-spoken people from the front lines or deep on the inside — folks whose frustrations and insights aren’t exactly news, but are credible and deep.
De Gaudio asked the TSA to participate in this film, to present their defense or perspective, but they refused. As a result, I fear the film as a whole may have suffered. The parade of roadblocks and whistleblowing and footage is carefully compiled but becomes a bit dull and blurred when not contrasted with the other perspective. We know about a lot of these failures already from every day news stories, so most of the revelations are not shocking or surprising, therefore smearing the presentation into a plodding litany of sins. Many people criticize Michael Moore as a documentarian, but as a maker of movies that hold your attention, he is undisputedly deserved in his accolades. His films contain that back and forth of Them and Us or they surprise the audience with deeper or even contradictory information, and keep the pace and flow dynamic. Shoes fails on this point as did Outrage; the audience’s attention flags and the message is lost. Knowing they wanted to include the TSA but could not just makes me wonder what great things they could have achieved with that material, as the technical aspects of the film are very tight and well-done.
It’s not that the situation with the TSA is not terrible, the negligence and rug-sweeping and buck passing that goes on, but the film suffers from this tonal flatness that caused me to lose my interest and need to go back and rewatch sections. At about 1:20 a passenger’s story of a terrifying flight perked up the narrative but then soon after the film wound to its conclusion. The filmmakers do summarize suggestions for improvement, as if this movie were merely an open letter to the powers that be. They are good suggestions for any business, government or private — and in a way it defangs the movie further when you see your own happy hour “if they only would just do THIS” grumbles delineated on the screen as the universal experience. Of course if my bosses turn a blind eye to low quality the potential catastrophies are much less dramatic.
The media has been pretty diligent about reporting that testers slip bombs and machine guns and thermonuclear submarines through airport security with routine ease, and after all the years of hearing it, just like when standing in that TSA line, we’re just numbed to a sort of non-accepting non-resistance. “Oh look, they pulled aside a baby whose name was on the no-fly list. Hey, Anderson Cooper snuck a tank through Boston Logan again.” We’re already bored by the terrible news — we need a movie that can cut through that glaze of disaffectedness. Without that extra sharpness, Please Remove Your Shoes is just an extremely well-researched, shot, and documented complaint.
MPAA Rating Not rated: best comparison to PG
Release date 7/9/10 to video
Time in minutes 89
Director Rob Del Gaudiio
Studio A Fred Gevalt Production