November 24, 2004

Two Filmmakers With Eyes Open

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Readers of this blog are probably aware that blogger, novelist, and filmmaker Roger Simon has not failed to understand the message stabbed to the freshly slaughtered body of Theo Van Gogh. Aside from Hollywood's collective lack of shock and outrage over the violent act itself, why has there been so little (read none) evidence of American filmmakers recognizing that war has been declared on the free expression of ideas through film (that being just for starters)?

And we're not talking about a need to grudgingly tolerate the freedom of people to make films bearing reprehensible ideological messages, we're talking about a man being brutally murdered because he made a film exposing the oppression of women. You'd think this would merit even the most token expression of solidarity against the silencing of artistic and political speech from 'progressives' in the Hollywood film industry.

Well Roger, as far as I'm concerned, is Hollywood now. By moral default. And so is a screenwriter named Bridget Johnson. Here's Johnson from a WSJ article that Roger links to today:

Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh's short film “Submission,” about the treatment of women in Islam, written by female Dutch parliamentarian and former Muslim Aayan Hirsi Ali, had aired in August on Dutch TV. Van Gogh was riding his bike near his home when a Muslim terrorist shot him, slashed his throat, and pinned to his body a note threatening Ms. Ali. This appears to be an organized effort, not the act of a lone nut; Dutch authorities are holding 13 suspects in the case.

After the slaying, I watched “Submission” (available online at ifilm.com) and my mind is still boggled that 11 minutes decrying violence against women incites such violence. There've been many films over the years that have taken potshots at Catholics, but I don't remember any of us slaughtering filmmakers over the offense. You didn't see the National Rifle Association order a hit on Michael Moore over “Bowling for Columbine.”

One would think that in the name of artistic freedom, the creative community would take a stand against filmmakers being sent into hiding à la Salman Rushdie, or left bleeding in the street. Yet we've heard nary a peep from Hollywood about the van Gogh slaying.

Johnson identifies as a conservative and speaks of a growing conservative culture within Hollywood. I applaud Johnson for speaking out on this issue. But I don't want liberal filmmakers to evade this. This is an issue that should not fall prey to the division between Left and Right.

I consider myself a liberal (though I'm still scratching my head over what the hell has happened to my liberal friends, where they have gone) and I'm still outraged that Roger Simon is the only liberal in Hollywood whose voice has been audible on the Van Gogh murder and what it portends. In light of this sort of failing on the part of liberals, I am much more comfortable in the company of conservatives like Johnson who are willing to pick up some of the core principles my comrades have left to rot. But I'm not fully content with that. It's time for my fellow liberals to wake the hell up.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at November 24, 2004 12:25 PM
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