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The Interview: The Healing and Transformative Power of the Arts to Build Bridges of Peace

As children were being incinerated by Awesome American Ordinance during the sultry days of last summer – while Americans fired up their Kindles on their beach vacations and Palestinians became kindling as Gaza burned, a group of Hollywood artists penned a letter of support for the imperial actions of our favorite recipient of military aid, Israel, noting that their “commitment to peace and justice” compelled them to promise to fully support the savage ethnic cleansing frenzy that IDF forces were daily raining on UN compounds, hospitals and schools.

The signatories of the children bombing support letter made clear their moral obligation to “stand firm against ideologies of hatred and genocide which are reflected in Hamas’ charter.” Absent from the statement of the concerned artists was any mention or recognition of the ideologies of hatred and genocide displayed over the course of Israel’s brutal and illegal 47 year occupation of Palestine.

190 letter-signing artists, movie moguls and movie makers, movie producers and movie stars (including Seth Rogen), all of whom are denizens of America’s dangerously libertine “left coast”, pledged to “join together in support of the democratic values we all cherish and in the hope that the healing and transformative power of the arts can be used to build bridges of peace”.

“The healing and transformative power of the arts to build bridges of peace.”

The Grand Illusion? The Dictator? Paths of Glory? Catch 22? The Deer Hunter?…M*A*S*H?

In mid-December the Daily Beast reported that among the stolen Sony corporation internal emails released by hackers were communications that revealed that “at least two U.S. government officials screened a rough cut of the Kim Jong-Un assassination comedy The Interview in late June and gave the film—including a final scene that sees the dictator’s head explode—their blessing.”

The emails between Sony CEO Michael Lynton, Sony corporate officials and a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation who Sony had hired to consult on Rogen’s film named Bruce Bennett revealed some pre-release discomfort at Sony regarding the gruesome ending of the film where the Kim Jong-Un character’s head melts and explodes as a consequence of an American directed act of political assassination- filmed in slow motion and accompanied by Katy Perry’s song “Firework”. But the cache of mails also included an assessment by Bennett that reveals he believes “that a story that talks about the removal of the Kim family regime and the creation of a new government by the North Korean people (well, at least the elites) will start some real thinking in South Korea and, I believe, in the North once the DVD leaks into the North (which it almost certainly will). So from a personal perspective, I would personally prefer to leave the ending alone.”

According to reports, Lynton responded to Bennett’s geo-strategic movie review on the same day stating that he, “spoke to someone very senior in State (confidentially), and he agreed with everything you have been saying. Everything.”

The hacked mails further revealed that the movie’s writer, director and lead actor Seth Rogen was also aggressive in his push for including the grisly murder scene to end the film, eventually agreeing with Sony, however, to back down a bit;

“We will make it less gory. There are currently four burn marks on his face. We will take out three of them, leaving only one. We reduce the flaming hair by 50 percent…The head explosion can’t be more obscured than it is because we honestly feel that if it’s any more obscured you won’t be able to tell it’s exploding and the joke won’t work. Do you think this will help? Is it enough?”

The US State Department confirmed after the revelations of the internal Sony emails that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Russell, had conferred with Sony executives about the film, and the email threads themselves revealed that Sony hired consultants also worked with the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human-rights issues, Robert King, in the development of The Interview.

“The healing and transformative power of the arts to build bridges of peace.”

The Hurt Locker? Zero Dark Thirty?

The Oscar winning film makers who wrote and directed the American military glorifying film called The Hurt Locker came under criticism prior to the release of their follow-up jingoist film about the killing of Osama bin Laden called Zero Dark Thirty (originally given the working title of For God and Country) for receiving exclusive and perhaps disallowed access to CIA information and insiders as they filmed. The activist conservative group Judicial Watch charged before the release of Zero Dark Thirty that the CIA improperly supported the film’s writers and director Katherine Bigelow and Mark Boal.

Although the group’s allegations, that sensitive and restricted government information was passed to the film makers by the CIA in an effort to burnish the president’s image as a tough and decisive commander in chief in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, were viewed widely by critics as no more than a political attack by the conservative organization, the film’s depiction that US torture was indispensable in revealing information that helped US military operatives assassinate bin Laden helped propagate the popular notion in America that torture is not fundamentally immoral and is rather an awesome tool to get terrorist evil-doers and also served to foster the agenda of self-exculpating CIA torturers.

In a profile of Boal from 2013, the Nation reported that internal CIA emails demonstrate that the agency understood the public relations value of Zero Dark Thirty’s depiction of the assassination of bin Laden and the US military’s reliance on the war crime of torture as it protects the homeland;

“A CIA flack promised colleagues that Boal had “agreed to share scripts and details about the movie with us so we’re absolutely comfortable with what he will be showing.” Another e-mail said that “for the intelligence case, they are basically using the WH-approved talking points we used the night of the operation.” The talking points called the raid “a ‘Gutsy Decision’ by the POTUS,” adding that “WH involvement was critical.” The CIA explained its rationale for cooperating with the filmmakers: “Our goal is an accurate portrayal of the men and women of the CIA, their vital mission, and the commitment to public service that defines them.”

A poll conducted recently by the Washington Post found that 59 percent of all Americans support the US military’s use of torture.

“The healing and transformative power of the arts to build bridges of peace.”

The State Department vetted The Interview hit theater screens on Christmas day (after some hedging by Sony after the group that claims to have hacked into Sony’s companywide computer system made threats of harming movie goers and bombing movie theaters) attracting sell out audiences across America.

Many who bought tickets to the film on its opening day (some decked out in red, white and blue outfits), told reporters that they felt it was a patriotic obligation to see The Interview.

A movie goer in Nashville, TN told the local press, “I’m here to support artistic freedom. I’m a drummer, and art is what we do here in Nashville.” Another ticket buyer opined, “They (the North Koreans) think they can change how we live our lives, but we can’t let that happen, I have grandchildren now, and we have to set an example for them to hold on to the things that are so special to us.” Another Tennessean confided, “I’m here to stick it to the man. For real.”

A cinema fan from Lubbock, TX advised, “The movie was certainly a little graphic and the humor was a little crude but I think that’s one of the great things about America, is the freedom of speech. It’s really important that we not allow other nations and dictators like that try to dictate what we put out. I’m really happy that it finally did get put out.” Another audience member in Texas, calling on other citizens to see The Interview, reflected, “Sometimes freedom isn’t really pretty or perfect but it’s a wonderful thing and one of the things that makes this nation great.”

Movie patrons in Austin, TX participated in a sing-along of country music artist Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA (Proud To Be An American)” before the screening of The Interview and in Atlanta, GA audience members stood to sing an impromptu version of “God Bless America” before the film credits rolled.

“Our goal is an accurate portrayal of the men and women of the CIA, their vital mission, and the commitment to public service that defines them.”

It can’t happen Here?

cross posted at the demise

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patrick devlin

patrick devlin

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