CRAWFORD: an Award Winning 2008 Documentary


CRAWFORD is an award-winning documentary.
Content is from the site's 2008 archived pages and other outside sources.



This film will be the spotlight premiere at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival and is represented by Submarine Entertainment (Spellbound, Super Size Me, Control Room): What happens to the 705 residents of Crawford, Texas when George W. Bush moves to town? Crawford's characters are by turns bizarre, entertaining and tragic. Shoved into the spotlight for political stagecraft, their insular town explodes, pushing a progressive teacher and her student to the brink — and beyond. Invaded and abandoned, Crawford booms and busts, like the Presidency itself. Told through the eyes of Crawford's characters, this is a fun, funny, and ultimately moving story.
CRAWFORD is a microcosm of the Bush era -- a feature-length documentary that offers a new and colorful way of looking at the last seven years.


…a breakthrough film, a must-see of this year’s docs."

- Richard Linklater

"poignant…populated with colorful, contrasting characters."

- Joe Leydon, Variety

"Crawford received standing ovations at South by Southwest."

- Jeffrey Ressner,

CRAWFORD is an award-winning documentary about a small town thrust into big-time politics; the human impact of political machinations. The recent Republican Vice Presidential nomination of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin casts new light onto the long tradition of campaigns creating political narratives that use the mystique of small towns as their centerpiece.

Governor Palin’s messages, pivoting on her folksy persona, reignite the culture wars between small towns and the population centers of a more cosmopolitan America. We’ve seen this before. Ask the people of Crawford, Texas, whose town was thrust into the spotlight when George W. Bush moved in, as he announced his candidacy for President.

CRAWFORD asks the question: Does the political machine so intent on capitalizing on the notion of “small town values” actually value the small town itself? In 1999, one small town was thrown on a rollercoaster ride to find out the hard way.

Moments before setting his sights on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Governor George W. Bush buys a ranch in Crawford, Texas and called it “home” That moment thrusts Crawford onto the world stage. An insular community, our living breathing “small town” finds itself trampled under the heels of the international press corps. They set up their satellites, frame their shots around bale of hay and a political narrative is born. Tourists flock. Souvenir vendors see business boom overnight. Diners overflow with politicians, and Crawford gets caught up in its fifteen minutes of fame.

Suddenly fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Local tensions begin to flare, the residents speak out – and CRAWFORD’s characters open up on camera.

We follow a freethinking high school teacher, her students, a shop owner, and a cowboy, — as well as other Crawford locals — as their town – and their lives begin to change. When the town newspaper endorses the “other” candidate tensions grow. Will these individual lives and more importantly their relationships with one another be irreversibly altered by this single decision of a presidential candidate? And when the Bush Ranch becomes the “Western White House” will there be any going back?

Just as the town is starting to feel the heat of the national spotlight the stakes suddenly get higher. Cindy Sheehan and her peace movement arrive at Crawford’s doorstep. The tiny town takes center stage.

An encampment starts to form as the fallen soldier’s mother calls out the President on the eve of his vacation. 20,000 impassioned protesters and counter-protestors battle in Crawford’s backyards.. And Crawford’s “small town” image begins to change. Exacerbated tensions place pressure on the community and the liberties Americans take for granted. Our most cherished freedoms of speech and the press – not to mention this small town’s actual values – all are called into question.

Horse-breaker Ricky Smith must protect his town from the “low-lifes” pouring in; teacher Misti Turbeville must confront the school’s administration to protect a lone progressive student; while the town’s elders fight to maintain a sense of normalcy.

Seven years of political drama ultimately take their toll leaving the real people of Crawford to deal with the aftermath.

CRAWFORD tells an often funny and deeply human story about’ real “real people” in small town America whose lives are altered by the lone choice of a soon to be President.

Director’s Statement

I was duped. I didn’t know George W. Bush wasn’t from Crawford, Texas.

When I learned Bush moved to Crawford in ’99, just before announcing his candidacy for President, I realized how well his political stagecraft had worked; I’d bought the folksy narrative — the origin myth — completely. I wanted to see this town he’d made into a symbol. And I wanted to make a film indicting him for it. Thankfully, I found something far more compelling—the 705 people of Crawford, Texas.

On our first shoot, we were told that if we went to the Fina Gas Station before dawn we could find some of Crawford’s farmers drinking their morning coffee. We walked in, groggy, at 5:30am. Six men sitting around a table stopped mid-conversation and looked up. Their faces read: “who the hell are these kids and what are they doing here?”

I eventually screwed up the courage to break the ice. I said “good morning,” introduced myself and sat down to drink a coffee. At the table, they’d rigged up a little red mailbox-like flag with “B.S.” written on it, which they’d pull on each other about every five minutes. They asked me “what brings you to Crawford?” I said “I’m not really sure.” One of them pulled the flag; we all laughed. Pug Meyers, Bill Holmes and their friends were friendly, shy, funny, wily—skeptical of the media, but willing to give us the benefit of the doubt. Two hours later, we took out the camera. By the end of the day, we’d met several people who would become our main subjects. And in three years we had a movie.

We arrived in Crawford before Cindy Sheehan and the subsequent massive protests. This made a huge difference in the relationships that we formed with the people of Crawford and the way in which they let us into their lives. And when things exploded in town, they were willing to let us follow them behind the scenes of the drama.

I’m proud of the film and I think the people of Crawford are, too. For some eight years, Bush and the White House press corps made Crawford part of a story. Now the people of Crawford tell their own.

As elections near and we prepare to turn the page on the Bush era, we’re beginning to reflect on it. We can look back through the eyes of the media, through historians and pundits, who will write books and articles and essays. Or, we can cut through all that, step behind the scenes and get a unique take on the last seven years—people’s history of the Bush era from some of the most dynamic, colorful characters you’ll ever see on screen.

-David Modigliani


Noted: I love this documentary. I recently watched it again on Amazon Prime during NYC lock down during the Covid-19 pandemic. Besides working from home, going for walks each evening as the sun sets either in Central Park or along Riverside Park, and the occasional grocery store run, my life has been put on hold. But it's stressful. I'd like to empty my head sometimes so I meditate. And read. Discovered some of the works of Rev Sales, including his spot on essay on the idea of nothing. In stressful times many want an escape from overwhelming reality and find relief focused on nothingness, like sensory deprivation or meditation that empties the mind. It's been a relief now that businesses have started to reopen - particularly restaurants although all the tables are outside on the side walk or on the streets where cars would normally park. But it's getting bad again with winter and more cases. Crossing my fingers.

Seeing Crawford and the stories about its residents and how the Bush years changed them, I wonder if a documentary will be made about Trump's (hopefully 1 term) presidency and how those folks who supported him in 2016 have either changed their opinions or still support him. As the election draws closer, more and more published books reveal more and more about the man. I could see see documentaries emerging from these chaotic times: one that is of his alter reality that touts and elevates the man (just rewatch the GOP 2020 convention) and one that views him from the reality we see each day from "fake news" journalists that see an emperor wanna be without clothes. I wonder how David Modigliani might handle a documentary about DJTrump.



About the subjects

Some of Our Characters:

Norma Nelson-Crow – Norma returns home to open a successful souvenir shop. She becomes a master at marketing all things “Crawford.” Business has grown in a once-dead town, but what do the protests mean for her store?

Ken Judy – Ken is Vice President of Crawford’s Bank and a hardcore Bush Supporter who doesn’t care for the media’s choice of backdrops. He churns as the small town’s valued insularity explodes. Can they get it back?

Mike Murphy – Mike is a conservative Baptist preacher who sees Bush’s arrival as an answered prayer. His witty phrases on the church marquee make international papers, but how does will deal with the film’s shattering tragedy?

Robert Murphy – Robert coaches the Division 2A state champion Crawford Pirates. A trip to the White House isn’t a bad motivational tool, but what does the teams motto — “everybody same” – mean for the other kids in town?

Leon Smith – Leon runs Crawford’s newspaper, the Lonestar Iconoclast, which endorses Bush in 2000, but then famously endorses his opponent, John Kerry in 2004, sending reverberations with dire consequences through the town.

Ricky Smith - Ricky is a horse-breaker who remembers when you could trade guns in the school parking lot—“now there is a tourist under every rock.” It’s all novel until land values skyrocket and Cindy Sheehan, who “should be hung for treason,” comes to town. How does he protect his values and his way of life?

Misti Tubeville – Misty is a progressive-minded high school teacher who was born in Crawford and has returned to teach its kids. How does she protect freethinking in a conservative town and what does it mean for her family?

Tom Warlick – Tom is a pro-Bush 16-year-old in the Crawford High School Band. But, when the band answers Bush’s invitation to the 2000 inauguration in Washington, the crowds of protesters Warlick sees send him to the Internet with new ideas. As his political outlook changes and he gets called a “terrorist” in town, he battles to maintain his identity.



CRAWFORD has sold out screenings at major festivals since 1,200 people attended its SXSX spotlight premiere. The film has been highly praised in VarietyTexas MonthlyFilm ThreatPolitico.comThe Dallas Morning News and Premiere Magazine among many others.

CRAWFORD has been featured on national TV (MSNBC) and four NPR affiliates, lauded by Jake Gyllenhaal and Richard Linklater and linked to by the NYT’s Frank Rich. Its director, Modigliani has been called one of the “next great Texas directors” and the “anti-Moore.”

Two different AP stories covering CRAWFORD’s screening in the town of Crawford, TX ran in over 110 news outlets across the country and around the world. CRAWFORD’s momentum continued with its recent win of the Brooklyn Film Festival’s Audience Award for Best Documentary and its European Premiere at the Munich Film Festival. Its trailer has been viewed 34, 203 times on - more than half of that in the last month. It’s an undeniably pertinent, colorful story, with a behind-the-scenes angle that’s in high demand as the conversation over Bush legacy begins. The following is a comprehensive list of press coverage with relevant pull quotes and links to the print or video source.


SXSW 2008: David Modigliani and 'Crawford'

By Jette Kernion on March 7, 2008 - 1:09pm in 

  • Local Cast and Crew
  • SXSW

Crawford, Texas

Several of this year's SXSW documentaries focus on events in other parts of Texas. Austin playwright and filmmaker David Modigliani has been working for some time on a movie about Crawford, Texas, which many of us hadn't heard of until it became known as the home of the Bush ranch. Modigliani showed a rough cut of his film Crawford last year at an Austin Film Society Doc-in-Progress screening, and now the documentary is having its world premiere this week at SXSW. This is producer/director Modigliani's first feature-length film.

I was curious about Crawford, and then I met David on Wednesday night at an AFS pre-SXSW mixer, so I emailed him a few questions. Our discussion follows.


Describe your film for us.

What happens to the 705 people of Crawford, Texas when George W. Bush moves to town? Shoved into the spotlight for political stagecraft, their insular town explodes, pushing a progressive teacher her her favorite student to the brink -- and beyond. Invaded and abandoned, Crawford booms and busts, like the Presidency itself. Now, through the eyes of Crawford's residents, comes a unique reflection on the last seven years -- a people's history of the Bush era.

What made you choose this particular subject for your film?

When I found out that Bush wasn't from Crawford -- that he'd moved there in '99, just a couple of months before announcing his candidacy -- I became interested the town he was using as a prop for his political narrative. As time went on, however, I became intrigued by the people of Crawford, and the impact all this political stagecraft had on their lives. In the end, Crawford is a unique subject for a doc because it serves as a specific microcosm of the sweeping arc of the Bush era.

How long have you been working on Crawford?

Three years. I'm excited for it to hit the big screen at the Paramount! Couldn't have envisioned that when I walked into Crawford's gas station looking for a first interview in the spring of 2005.

Are there any "Austin connections" in this film (crew, locations, interview subjects)?

Deb Lewis was a great DP on the last couple of shoots and Diane Zander Mason did some sound work with us, but most importantly all the original music in the film was composed and performed by Austinite David Rice and the film was edited with Austinite Matt Naylor at 501 Post. Those folks have been incredible collaborators and a true testament to the quality of Austin's film community.

Can you tell me a little about the advisory board credited for this film, which includes some well-known names (Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Jake Gyllenhaal)? How did they fit into the filmmaking process?

Jake, Ted and Mary both responded with real excitement to an early cut of the film. They gave notes on that cut and later ones, and have advised on decisions regarding representation and approach to distribution. They're smart, progressive-minded people with great eyes for film.

What are your future plans for this film?

My future plan is to screen the film at the Paramount Theater 3 times during SxSW :) After that, we'll be at AFI Dallas and the Independent Film Festival of Boston. Somewhere in there, I hope that our rep, Submarine Entertainment (Super Size MeSpellboundControl Room) is able to achieve a domestic broadcast agreement and that our international rep, Ro*Co films (No End in SightBorn into BrothelsJesus Camp) is able to find some international outlets for the film. I think it will play well abroad.

What's your favorite part of SXSW?

Watching 76-year-old Bill Holmes, a former Justice of the Peace in tiny Crawford, Texas and a subject in the film, ride into Austin and see himself on the big screen at the Paramount.

What one place to visit/eat/drink would you recommend to out-of-towners here for SXSW?

A swim at Barton Springs. A great place to exercise...or to shake a hangover.


IMBd User Reviews
8/10 stars by frankenbenz | 6 December 2008 |

Just prior to George W. Bush announcing his candidacy for president, he relocated to a town of 705 people named Crawford, Texas. Why, exactly, would an Ivy League, Skull and Bones, multi-millionaire oil man relocate to a one horse town still reeling from its drought ravaged past? The answer to this question is the starting point of Crawford, a new documentary available on

Over the next 75 minutes we get familiar with a cross-section of Crawford's residents and witness the effect the arrival of Bush has on each of their lives. Director David Modigliani uses Crawford as a microcosm to represent the great divide emblematic of present day USA, a country bitterly divided by those on the right and those on the left. Modigliani tries very hard to stay in the middle of the road, but his efforts are thwarted by those on the right who glibly play their part as defined by their stereotype. These are people intolerant of others, judgmental, willfully ignorant, and openly religious, blind followers of Bush and all too ready to regurgitate his clichéd rhetoric. These aren't bad people and they're never presented in a way that would make you hate them, but their overall lack of self-awareness and self- righteous zeal to promote their world view makes them very hard to empathize with.

The few people in Crawford who we make a real connection to are those who defy the small town stereotype, those who dare to be different in the face of a very tight knit, conservative community. It is through the eyes of Crawford's liberals that we get a glimpse into what it really means to be exposed, vulnerable, curious and concerned with what's wrong with the world. These few people aren't set in their ways, they aren't bullies and they're not preaching. Ironically these few who aren't religious are the ones living the religious example "There but for the grace of God go I." In the end, Crawford doesn't editorialize, nor does it force you to pick sides; it simply shows people as they are and it lets us decide who we'd rather break bread with. You would think the decision is a no-brainer, but you can never underestimate the power of those with no brains.


VARIETY - 3/12/08

“… a poignant account… populated with colorful, contrasting characters…”


POLITICO.COM - 3/11/08

“CRAWFORD received standing ovations at South by Southwest.”


THE NEW YORK SUN - 3/13/08

“….revelatory: a deeply committed piece of high-def storytelling.”



“Vital…Engaging…CRAWFORD has the potential to disrupt narratives and change the way people think.”


“…a richly compelling microcosmic portrait.”



“Modigliani is one of four next great Texas directors.”



(Feature story on screening in Crawford, TX itself on a 50 ft. outdoor screen)


One hundred ten (110) news outlets across the country (including 27 states) and publications around the world pick up the story, including:

Los Angeles Times
USA Today
The Washington Post
Chicago Sun Times
The Boston Globe
International Herald Tribune
The Guardian (London)

MSNBC NATIONAL TV - 5/10/08, 10:40am EST

MSNBC Interviews Modigliani Live from Crawford, TX on the morning of Jenna Bush’s Wedding (3:30)


NEW YORK TIMES - 4/20/08

Frank Rich links to CRAWFORD in his column (click on ‘country house’)


CINEMABLEND.COM - Sunday 3/9/08

“….a fresh, unique perspective…immensely even-handed, entertaining, and incredibly affecting….”



“A touching, even-handed, and genuinely significant film.”



“The right mingles with the left, no one is declared a winner…a brilliant job…refreshing to have such a politically charged environment delivered to the viewer with such an even hand.”



(Front Page Entertainment Section)

“…surprising, satisfying dissonance.”


“…an effective and engaging flick…”



“…a breakthrough film; a must-see of this year’s docs.”


“…festival favorite”


(CRAWFORD Wins Audience Award at Brooklyn Film Festival)



(Variety Interviews Modigliani at SXSW)


Front Page Entertainment Section: FULL PAGE SPLASH with picture of Modigliani

Interview with Modigliani: “This is no Michael Moore diatribe….it’s not a political polemic. The film is not about Bush. The film is about the people of Crawford. Honestly, I’m tired of films in the Michael Moore style that I think alienate the very people that a film could welcome into a conversation. It’s been very meaningful to me that the people in the film, some of whom are very conservative, have supported it. If the film is controversial, it would only be because it portrays each subject of the film as truly as possible.”



“…potent documentary…remarkable”

“…the truth of the place (and its citizens) is stranger and far more wonderful than fiction.”



“…hilarious and heart thrashing documentary…”



“…smart and absorbing…a microcosm of a nation.”



Major feature in the most widely read German news source.



Featured SXSW documentary film.


Front Page Entertainment Section & Interview: “CRAWFORD Director the ‘Anti-Moore’”


NBC Austin Affiliate KXAN

5 Minute Feature on 10pm News including interview with Modigliani



“… surprising, enlightening…highly recommended.”


BOSTON GLOBE - 4/27/08

(”Celebrity News”)

Mary Steenburgen (on advisory board of film) accompanies Modigliani to Boston premiere of CRAWFORD



Feature post: “Moises Chiullan is raving about David Modigliani’s ‘Crawford’”


NPR: KUT (AUSTIN) on 3/4/08

KUT’s John Aielli interviews Modigliani on Prime Time Morning Show …CRAWFORD’s (originally produced) credits song plays 9 times throughout the week.


INDIEWIRE.COM on 1/20/08

(SXSW Festival Head Programmer Matt Dentler’s CRAWFORD Blog)

“…a provocative, yet balanced, nonfiction portrait…”


VARIETY Festival Central - 6/12/08

(Feature on screening in Crawford, TX on front page of SXSW section.)



“…a very well crafted film…incredibly candid and emotional moments.”


VARIETY blog - 6/13/08

(Post by Mike Jones with pictures of CRAWFORD in Crawford.)



“David Modigliani is suddenly all over the place…with the acclaimed documentary…”



(By Popular Demand, IFFB Adds a Third Screening of CRAWFORD)



“Sometimes the best documentarians are the ones that shut up and listen.”

“Modigliani allows the film to evolve from a close-up portrait of a neighborhood into an acute microcosm of the current left-right debate in America.”


BOSTONIST.COM on 4/24/08

Review & Interview with Modigliani

Modigliani: “For them [the people of Crawford] to stand behind it, to say ‘we’re fairly represented here’ and to enjoy the movie — that was the best review we could have gotten.”


IFC NEWS on 03/08

IFC Interviews Modigliani



“…the film captures a place in transition, as Crawford becomes a tourist attraction, a media encampment, a protest site and a prism through which much of the world sees Texas.”


Four-page feature.

“Modigliani honors that spirit of egalitarianism by focusing his film not on Bush and other grandees, but rather on half a dozen unfamiliar figures, men and women who live their lives in Crawford out of range of the scores of TV cameras deployed to cover the big cheeses melting in the Texas sun.”



News & Politics Section Feature


NBC Austin Affiliate KXAN - 3/15/08

Exclusive 11 Minute Interview with Modigliani leading up to SXSW



“…a new outlook…a humane, personable aspect…be sure to catch this film.”

“Modigliani makes his mark on the world of filmmaking.”



FOX’s Lauren Petrowski Interviews Modigliani



(Full page feature with splash photo)

“…accurately depicting the people of Crawford in a way the national media all but ignored.”



Extended Interview with Modigliani.



Front page cover and inside splash in Crawford, Texas’ former newspaper.

“He [Modigliani] found some serious gems.”



Norm Schrager interviews Modigliani



(Second feature on Austin’s most widely read culture website)

“It’s an examination of what happens when a town of 705 is forced to accommodate a Halliburton-sized PR machine, and the irrevocable growing pains that linger in town long after the fuss has died down.”



(Sunday Style Section Feature)


(Jim Long interviews Modigliani in Crawford, TX during Jenna Bush’s wedding.)



(Front Page Feature in Crawford’s current hometown newspaper.)



“…much lauded documentary… is crossword puzzle item in Little Rock newspaper.”


WACO TRIBUNE on 1/15/08

Featured SXSW film


AUSTIN360.COM on 1/15/08

(Austin American Statesman Movie Blog)



(Feature story on CRAWFORD in Crawford.)



(SXSW Interview with Modigliani)


AUSTIN360.COM - 3/6/08

(Austin American Statesman Festival Guide)

“…a fair and fine-grained snapshot of the town, locating many surprising truths that obliterate expedient mythmaking.”



(Interview with Modigliani at SXSW)



“Capturing Crawford”



Interview with Modigliani





SXSW Review


SXSW Film Review


Independent Film Festival of Boston Review



“…hit by Hurricane Bush… a fine documentary that doesn’t make the mistake of coming at its subject head-on… it seems to grow from the soil of the place the president wanted to be from.”


NPR: KUT (AUSTIN) - 3/6/08

KUT’s Julie Moody spotlights SXSW Spotlight Premiere


NPR: KWBU (WACO) - 5/29/08

KWBU’s Michael Hagerty interviews Modigliani in anticipation of the screening in Crawford, TX itself.


Feature Story: ‘Film Shows How Bush Changed Texas Town’

(This first AP story was picked up by over 70 outlets, including