It is becoming increasingly the norm for Internet readers to rely on blogs as a primary source of information. With this new found competition that moves faster and relies less on journalistic objectivity, traditional media outlets have found themselves losing influence. In an effort to mimic the speed and impact of the increasingly influential blogosphere, some of them have developed a taste for innuendo and insinuation that rivals the most incendiary and virulent blogs on either side of the partisan divide. These same traditional players, to their discredit, couch their opinions in the language of objectivity and seem to have a pathological need to fit news into easily digested stereotypes.
A perfect and unfortunate example of this is a Portfolio Magazine article, "Film No Evil," written about a movie that I have directed and produced called U.N. Me. It is a documentary that is an irreverent, sardonic and, at times, tragic film about the failure of the United Nations to live up to its founding ideals. In reporting on the film, they have written an article that is riddled with errors and misrepresents the scale and spirit of the film.
The United Nations' failure to live up to its ideals has been, for a variety of reasons, a conservative bailiwick. This is despite the fact that the U.N's inability to properly deal with issues such as nuclear proliferation, human rights, genocide and peacekeeping are issues that should and in many cases does, ring alarm bells across all political ideologies. The Portfolio article attempts to portray my movie as a right wing film whose sole marketing outlets and appeal are to Evangelical Christians. While this movie certainly does appeal to Evangelicals, and their support is certainly greatly appreciated, it is mistaken and -- worse -- disingenuous of the author to imply that they are the only political community that we would market the film to. Particularly because she and I had numerous discussions about our efforts to market and engage people of all political stripes and having seen the film she is certainly aware that we have made a concerted effort to assure its political neutrality and broad political appeal. More than half of the movie deals with the United Nations' failures in combating human rights violations around the world, particularly in Africa. This is hardly an issue that solely appeals to the right. Yet, instead of using this article to trumpet an issue that could bring political camps together and to counter a stereotype, Portfolio chose to ignore the ethos of the film and use the distasteful politics of division.
The Portfolio article further attempts to marginalize the overall prospects of the film by contending that the movie holds no real interest to distributors and will have a very small release footprint. These statements have no basis in fact and could not be further from the truth. There are very few documentaries that can attract, as we did, major studios to agree to attend private screenings, including Paramount, Sony, Fox, the Weinstein company, and Samuel Goldwyn among many others. Because we received enthusiastic responses from many of the distributors who have seen the film, we have never had to contemplate releasing it ourselves. One of our offers proposes opening the film in several hundred theaters across the country, establishing U.N. Me as one of the largest releases ever for a documentary. Hardly the inconsequential offers Portfolio is trying to make them out to be.
The most confounding part of this experience has been the author's personal stance on the film. She has repeatedly expressed her admiration for what we have accomplished over the phone, in person, and in writing. "EXCELLENT! Really entertaining." she wrote in one email. "Still haunted by what I saw," she wrote in another. Though the author of the article does claim that it was her editor who took an "overly cynical" approach to our movie and the article.
Portfolio's attempt to paint the film as something it is not by using political titillation and creating divisions where none exist is certainly not the way to steal back relevancy from the blogosphere. In our brutally divided political landscape, nothing would bring me greater joy and a sense of accomplishment then if this film could bring left and right together on this issue. Not that you would ever know it from the Portfolio magazine article.
Go see the trailer of the film and decide for yourself at unmemovie.com, and let me know what you think.