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The Producer of 'Amadeus' and the White House 'Criminals'
Last uploaded : Thursday 20th Mar 2003 at 02:29
Contributed by : The Editor



Update on 29 March 2003:
Those of you who are on our e-mail list (it is easy to join, just 'Subscribe' to the left of the home page), will have read this article from 'The Guardian' by Julie Burchill. We cannot reprint it here due to copyright restrictions but here is the Link:


Then read our article below:
Many events in the past fortnight have caused ructions within families, amongst work colleagues and between neighbours; as I write this I am aware that here in central London there are ever larger crowds gathering to protest the attacks on Iraq.

Several public events in the past few weeks have left a considerable impression on me. The first event was the February 23 BAFTA Awards ceremony, when the British Film and Television Academy, of which I am a member, presents our annual awards for the finest performances and productions of the motion picture year. This year it was exceptionally star-studded and was remarkably devoid of political speeches, until Pedro Almodavar received ?Best Foreign Film? for the delectable ?Talk to Her,? which he had directed. Though I support the Anglo-American campaign that tonight has metamorphosed into full-scale war, I was touched by Almodovar?s plea for peace. He said he had read in a newspaper that an American General had been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to bomb when the moon was in the right place in its cycle. Almodovar said that the moon must only be regarded as a source of light for good and loving things. Who could dispute that?

But then came Saul Zaentz. I have always admired him; he made his fortune in jazz recordings and olive oil, but instead of amassing millions and staying by a pool he ploughed his energies, and in some cases funds into film projects about which he felt passionate. His most outstanding successes as Producer/Executive Producer were ?One Flew Over the Cuckoo?s Nest;? ?Amadeus? and ?The English Patient.? This year the Academy decided to give him the Fellowship Award and by the time this was announced at the end of the ceremony, a dazzling and slick evening had unfolded on worldwide television.

What did Saul Zaentz do? He used the occasion not to promote peace, as the poetic Almodovar had done, but to cast aspersions on the present American Administration. Before my fellow Democrats recoil in horror, I wish to point out that I have no objection to Saul making a plea for peace, but he used the word ?criminality? to describe the actions of the Administration. Was this necessary in front of a foreign audience? How far would Zaentz have got had he uttered such words inside the United States? He is enormously wealthy, hugely successful and of a great age, hence his devil-may-care, free-wheeling description of the Bush era, but what possessed him to refer to the present regime as being guilty of 'outright criminality?' (Was Bill Clinton such a lily-white mensch?)

Here is what Saul Zaentz said:

'I am one of the majority of millions of registered voters who were not realised in the last Presidential election, and there is no doubt of outright criminality at the highest level by the Court-declared winners. We are now seeing in America the possibilities of an absolute government by the Few for the betterment of the Few. This is to be reached by any manner. But as one of that great majority that believes that America as America is not the person or the politician who happens to be in office for a stated period of time, in the words of Martin Luther King, "We Shall Overcome" and we will..'

What annoyed me most about Saul?s speech is that he put the Academy audience into the impossible position of having to applaud him for the award, but had I been there I would have been hard pressed to put my hands together, much as I admire the great man. Although I have lived in the United Kingdom for nearly thirty years, an American who uses a forum as gracious as the British Academy Awards to vilify the present Administration gives me pause; I know what he was trying to say, but did he have to describe his head of State as one of a group of criminals?

Moving on to the Screen Actors? Guild Awards, a similar event that took place in the United States a fortnight after the British Academy Awards, I was astonished to see an incident unfold that left me feeling dismayed and deeply disturbed. Those of us who have spent any length of time in Israel will know how much the soldier means to the average person. Virtually every Israeli will have served in the armed forces and the contribution of men and women in uniform is held in the highest esteem.

On the SAG Awards broadcast, the actress Melissa Gilbert came up to the podium and reminded the worldwide audience that hundreds of thousands of men and women in uniform were watching the ceremony from bases around the world. She said they were there to defend freedom and asked the audience to give them a hand. To my utter astonishment, some members of the audience did not applaud. How can one feel so inclined? How can one deny a soldier in some godforsaken outpost a moment of appreciation?

Michael Moore, the humourist and award-winning documentary-maker (he who calls the President Governor Bush and Al Gore Mr President) has suggested this week that every Congressman and the President send their children to military service, preferably to the present theatre of war. Fine -- I think it is a splendid idea. But do the people who refused to applaud the men and women in uniform feel they are some form of lesser human being because they are serving under Bush?

Bringing political discord into events that celebrate artistic brilliance is a disturbing phenomenon to behold, but Almodovar?s lunar musings were thought-provoking and touching even for hawks like me. Refusing to applaud the souls who are trying to sustain our way of life by risking their own lives is churlish in the extreme.


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