Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Guardian : Flicks for the far right

At the inaugural American Film Renaissance festival, conservative film-makers take feeble aim at Hollyweird - and their arch-nemesis, Michael Moore, writes Michelle Goldberg

Speaking at the American Film Renaissance's small opening-night reception at the Dallas Intercontinental last Friday, the rightwing film critic Michael Medved claimed: "The huge success of The Passion of the Christ has changed western culture permanently and forever." He was simply stunned, he said, that Hollywood was not trying to cash in on the shift.

"What is it about one of the most profitable movies in history that they don't understand?" he asked, as a crowd of about 50 festival-goers nibbled miniature roast beef sandwiches, spring rolls and empanadas. "There is something wrong here! There is a very real problem! The problem is not that people objected to the movie because it was anti-Jewish." Indeed, he said, the charges of anti-semitism were "sick, twisted and demagogic".

"They opposed it not because it was anti-Jewish," he said, "but because it was pro-Christian."

Like so many of the people at the inaugural American Film Renaissance festival, Medved spoke with an easygoing, Rotary Club ordinariness that belied the seething anger underneath. There was none of Zell Miller's fire and brimstone in his voice as he blandly called for more demeaning portrayals of gay people in the mass media, saying, "Every single image of homosexuality you see on TV is positive. It's not only positive, it's glowing. It's saintly. When was the last time you saw a nasty gay character? A degraded gay character?"

Medved is a bigot, but he's also on to something. Many people on the coasts have not reckoned with the true cultural complexion of vast swaths of this country. They tend to make movies and write articles and produce albums as if their fellow citizens inhabited the same reality that they do, but there is another world in America: a through-the-looking-glass universe in which conservative Christians, despite dominating all the branches of government, feel persecuted by the state, in which gun control is seen as the natural precursor to genocide, and Bill Clinton is suspected of covering up Iraqi responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombings. Residents of this febrile realm believe they are the majority and that sinister, cringing liberals are denying them their cultural due. Convinced that the film industry is conspiring against them, they want to create a corn fed Hollywood of their very own, from the grassroots up.

(click on the title for the whole article)


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