Sunday, May 15, 2005

Reality-based unreality 

Compare and contrast at - of all the places - Cannes film festival.

Exhibit 1:
A British documentary arguing U.S. neo-conservatives have exaggerated the terror threat is set to rock the Cannes Film Festival... the way "Fahrenheit 9/11" stirred emotions here a year ago.

"The Power of Nightmares" re-injected politics into the festival that seemed eager to steer clear of controversy this year after American Michael Moore won top honors in 2004 for his film deriding President Bush's response to terror.

At a screening late on Friday ahead of its gala on Saturday, "The Power of Nightmares" by filmmaker and senior BBC producer Adam Curtis kept an audience of journalists and film buyers glued to their seats and taking notes for a full 2-1/2 hours.

The film, a non-competition entry, argues that the fear of terrorism has come to pervade politics in the United States and Britain even though much of that angst is based on carefully nurtured illusions.

It says Bush and U.S. neo-conservatives, as well as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, are exaggerating the terror threat in a manner similar to the way earlier generations of leaders inflated the danger of communism and the Soviet Union.

It also draws especially controversial symmetries between the history of the U.S. movement that led to the neo-cons and the roots of the ideas that led to radical Islamism -- two conservative movements that have shaped geopolitics since 1945.
Exhibit 2:
George Bush and Tony Blair will whoop for joy. A strongly pro-war film has been premiered at the Cannes film festival - and it comes from Iraq.

The main part of Hiner Saleem's Kilometre Zero, premiered in competition for the Palme D'Or, is set in 1988 against the backdrop of the deaths of thousands of Iraqi Kurds at the hands of Saddam's cousin, "Chemical" Ali Hassan al-Majid.

It is framed by scenes of the main characters, now exiled in France, rejoicing at the fall of Baghdad in 2003.

"I am against war of any kind," Saleem said. "But we didn't have the luxury to say, 'For the time being, we will be exterminated'.

"If you say that the US is an imperialist country, then you are right. Had Sweden, Liechtenstein, France, come, it would have been wonderful. But they gave the US free rein; I am extremely pleased."
This is so typical, and while I'm normally a calm person, it infuriates me to no end. People who had to live under tyranny, and so actually have a clue of what's going on, tell their stories and the intelligencia yawns, politely covering their mouths; then some moron - sorry, a "senior BBC producer" - self-indulgent and pampered by freedom and prosperity of the West, makes a documentary which says that much of today's terrorist threat is a "dark illusion" created by our right-wing governments and posits some sort of moral equivalence between neo-conservatism and Islamofascism, and the audience is "glued to their seats and taking notes for a full 2 1/2 hours."

And what's this? - current leaders "exaggerating the terror threat in a manner similar to the way earlier generations of leaders inflated the danger of communism and the Soviet Union"? Jesus wept. It terrifies me that a person with such non-existent moral and political judgment is one of Britain's premier film makers, and it surprises me that he is also now a senior BBC producer. Actually no, take that back - it doesn't.

If we, on the other side of the Iron Curtain, had only BBC to listen to illegally on our radios, we probably would have slashed our wrists by sometime in mid-1970s. Fortunately, we had Radio Free Europe and Voice of America, instead.


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