Slaughter Nick for President – NXNE World Premiere Review

Rob Stewart in Slaughter Nick for President
Check out our complete NXNE Coverage here

May 28 2012For the 18th year in a row North By Northeast (NXNE) is happening in Toronto from June 11th to the 17th 2012. NXNE is a music festival, conference, and even a film festival all rolled into one. Today we review a documentary that will have its world premiere at NXNE entitled Slaughter Nick for President.

One can just imagine how perplexed Canadian actor Rob Stewart  must have felt when he was greeted to a dizzying array of national media and adoring fans for a long since forgotten beach bum detective series that ended some two decades ago.  Now, replace Key Mariah Florida with  Belgrade Serbia, mix in the networking power of Facebook and anchor that to the geo-political climate in Serbia during Slobodan Milosevic’s tenure and you have the makings of one of the most unconventional yet uplifting documentaries in years.  
Rob Stewart in Slaughter Nick for President
 Hollywood, as many actors will testify can be the most unforgiving lover, just ask Rob Stewart (Nick Slaughter) who was the lead in the short lived (3 seasons) but successful TV detective series Tropical Heat (aka Sweating Bullets) in the early 90’s. After not getting pick up for a fourth season by CBS and unable to parlay his acting cred, Stewart, like so many other thespians of the small screen was forced back to the humbling confines of his parents home in Brampton, Ontario.   
To this 47 year old journeyman actor with 20 years in the biz, it would appear the winding road of Hollywood fame had shot its final scene. That was until the global Facebook generation revealed that Rob Stewart would get to reprise his well loved character to a nation of loyal fans in of all places – Serbia.  Fast forward to June of 2009 and we see Rob and long time friend and neighbour, Marc Vespi (sporting an uncanny comedic timing)  boarding a flight to Belgrade to have that long awaited close up as Serbia’s adopted son finally comes home.
Slaughter Nick for President
What greeted Stewart and Vespi at the airport is a phalanx of devotees and national media virtually giddy in the presents of Nick Slaughter and all that he stands for. What ensued was a world wind schedule that would make George Clooney’s agent scramble. The irony of having your first major press conference for a series which ended some 20 years ago in another country was not lost on Rob and in his affable demeanor he “went with it” and what transpired is a series of fresh and visually inviting turns.  From shooting an impromptu commercial to being a contestant on the Serbian game show Piramida, to an interview with student activist Srda Popovic, one of the catalysts behind the movement that helped bring down Milosevic.  Then throw in a jam session with the Serbian punk rock band Atheist Rap and the transition from hardship to humour became seamless even though Stewart doesn’t speak a word of Serbian.  
Dubbed“Slaughtermania” by the national press, Tropical Heat resonated with Serbs at a time when they longed to escaped the harsh realities of Milosevic, if only vicariously through the Serbian looking advocate in Nick Slaughter. Stewart flips the script as his interview skills uncover not only the desperation of a nation but the power and hope that Tropical Heat gave them when very few took notice.  This is the documentaries true takeaway and all the spoils of fame can’t replace the transformative effect a long since departed detective series could have had by giving them the freedom to dream.  By elevating Nick Slaughter to presidential status, in a not so subtle way, provided further validation of what the series gave back.  Watching Slaughter Nick for President conveyed even more. 
Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars
Review by: John Dash
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Directors: Rob Stewart, Liza Vespi and Marc Vespi

Producer: Liza Vespi

World Premiere at NXNE Festival

Screening Schedule

Public Screenings
NFB         June 16, 2012       07:00 pm
NFB         June 17, 2012       12:30 pm

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