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JARECKI/DENBY DUST-UP


Ray Pride’s column over at Movie City News contains a long interview with Why We Fight director Eugene Jarecki in which he takes issue with David Denby’s recent review of his film:

PRIDE: I’m not asking you to respond to this specific review, but I was floored by the incredibly jejune review that David Denby wrote in the New Yorker of Why We Fight. This is merely a collage film; this guy went in with a point to make; this is not true filmmaking. Does that trouble you when a reviewer is so obstinate, so resistant to what
you’ve made?

JARECKI: I think it’s a form of unfortunate elitism where the reviewer probably does not have sufficient experience sitting in an audience and feeling the way people are affected the movie. So their review reveals more about the rarefied world in which they watch films than about the way those films actually impact the public. In the particular case of that review, I think Mr. Denby literally didn’t realize that most of the film he was watching was original footage. A lot of the shots that he referred to as being stock or archival were shot by… We had 21 cinematographers who worked on the film, some of whom were in combat for many, many months. Many of them were very, very, very hurt and very pained by what Mr. Denby wrote, and actually kind of disillusioned by it because one would have hoped that a reviewer of his credentials would know the difference between original material shot on hi-def, for example. Particularly if he’s going to take a position by which
documentary makers should operate. He often invokes the name Marcel Ophuls in the review. I daresay, I think Marcel Ophuls, wherever in this universe he is, was an artist who would not have thought that a critic should set parameters by which artist should operate. It’s just a tragic closure of the American mind, and thankfully audiences have not seen the film the way Mr. Denby did. I think if he had seen it with an audience, with the public… Also, I didn’t really know what he meant
by having a point of view. I mean, there are 24 people in the film, 20 of them are Republicans. And of the people in the film, there are many with whom I agree, and many with whom I disagree and all of them challenged my conceptions about life. And actually Marcel Ophuls himself said that all films are subjective, but his goal in his films was to show how difficult to come to the perceptions that he has.

…I honestly believe that David Denby has hurt too many filmmakers by writing things in the mainstream press that are vicious, that reveal a too-great distance from the creative process. If that makes me unpopular with David Denby, I think that any artist should be unpopular with any critic who sets tyrannical parameters about art. I also was angry at the insult he dealt my cinematographers, my crews. To call what they’re doing stock footage ignores their work, it ignores the commitment they made to time in the field. They wrote a note about this; they were extremely upset about it and co-signed it, 19 of them.
It’s a big deal. And it sends a shock wave. It’s kind of like, I guess, the way Mr. Denby would see the world, you’re either with him or you’re with the terrorists.

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