Friday, September 08, 2006

Horrific Head Trauma's Here,
Disney/ABC's Path to 9/11 Dangerous?,
[Note: I've added a 1 PM update on Path to 9/11]
Moore Fans: Check Out Kinky Boots

Head Trauma Opens at the Latchis in Brattleboro Tonite --
I'll Be There, Will You?

I've been posting about Lance Weiler's new feature Head Trauma all week, and just want to remind everyone in driving distance of Brattleboro, VT's famous Latchis Theater that I'll be at tonight and tomorrow night (Sept. 8 & 9th)'s opening-weekend showings of Head Trauma -- so be there if you can!

I'll be introducing and fielding Q&A for the first show at 7 PM, and just introducing the 9 PM shows both nights. As amply covered here already (if you're just popping in, read the earlier posts from this past week, below), my son Dan and I drew one of the two comics narratives integral to Head Trauma's creepy psychological chills; I'll be posting more info on the creative process, with stages of the artwork we created, here next week.

Remember, too, that Lance will be attending the Wednesday, September 13th showings at the Latchis, and he and his wife (and yours truly) will be buzzing up I-91 to The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Jct. for a special afternoon session with the CCS students, and a one-show-only evening presentation of Head Trauma on Sept. 14th at 7 PM at the CCS, in the Colodny Building. Seating is limited for that event; first come, first seated, no reservations.

They'll then be heading for Rutland for the Friday, September 15th show in that VT city -- I'll not be attending that event.

If you live too far away to attend, no worries: Head Trauma streets on DVD on September 26th, featuring mucho extras, including a bonus feature in which Dan and I discuss the creation of our portion of the film's original comic art.

Dan will be at the Latchis both nights for the film's intro -- and I want to acknowledge and celebrate here the fact that my son Dan also DJed his first-ever radio program last night, "Music for Nervous People," on Brattleboro's brand-new low-watt local microradio station (WVEW, 107.7 FM).

Sadly, the station signal doesn't reach Marlboro, where I live, and according to station honcho Larry Block it's not yet online, so I couldn't tune in and I can't tune you in -- but I did want to be sure to bring Dan's radio debut to your attention, and wish him luck! He tells me there's at least one more program coming up, but beyond that -- well, we'll see.

For more on Brattleboro's new community radio station WVEW, click
  • here,
  • though note that WVEW does have its own site --
  • here
  • -- which is mislisted on Google as "" instead of "" -- make a note of that!

    WVEW arose from the ashes of the original community microradio station rfb (Radio Free Brattleboro); for more info on the original rfb, check
  • here, which features an update chronology of rfb's lifespan.

  • __________________________________________

    Alan Moore and Leah Moore/John Reppion fans, take note: the recent DVD release of Julian Jarrold's "based-on-a-true-story" opus Kinky Boots is worth a look for the glimpses it provides of Alan & Leah's own home town of Northampton, UK.

    When Marge and I caught up with Leah & John in Copenhagen back in April, Leah indeed confirmed that Kinky Boots had been filmed in Northampton, and was indeed based on an honest-to-God true story, which is all I needed to hear. Though we missed seeing the film on its brief threatrical run hereabouts, we're eager to catch it on DVD. Having visited Northampton at least three times back in the '80s and early '90s, I'm eager to see how Alan & Leah's native digs come across on celluloid. Clearly modeled on the international popularity of recent breakthrough hits like The Full Monty and Calender Girls (whose co-writer, Tim Firth, indeed co-scripted Kinky Boots).

    If nothing else, if there's enough of Northampton on view, I'll snap up my own copy of Kinky Boots to rack it alongside From Hell, V for Vendetta and -- my beloved rare vhs copy of John Candy/Eugene Levy/John Blanchard's The Last Polka (1985), in which Candy & Levy appear as Yosh & Stan Shmenge (and Pa & Ma Shmenge).

    Uh, why rack the classic Shmenge faux-biopic alongside Kinky Boots? Because one of my fave sequences of The Last Polka chronicles the Shmenge's tour-stop in Kitchener, Ontario -- Dave Sim's home town, which I also visited annually throughout the 1990s. I miss Dave, I miss Ger (and Rose), and I sure miss Kitchener -- and when I do, why, there's nothing like a viewing of The Last Polka to cheer me up. We'll see if Kinky Boots has the same kick when I'm aching for a taste of Merry Ol' Northampton, but I'll let ya know as soon as Marge and I get a chance to see it.

    Just thought you Moore & Reppion fans should know about this bit of trivia...

    Speaking of "based on a true story" movies, there's one about to screen this weekend that's got members of the President Clinton Administration up in arms, representing as it seems to (and I hasten to emphasize "seems to," as I haven't seen the film) another volley of Disney/ABC-funded pro-Bush Administration, pro-GOP propaganda.

    Disney, as you may recall, is the studio that financed and then ix-nayed Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, prompting Moore and Miramax to hastily revamp distribution plans -- while Disney feebly countered the popularity of Moore's film with the feel-good travelogue Louis Schwartzberg's America's Heart & Soul (2004), which was a resounding failure at the boxoffice. But then again, Fahrenheit 9/11 didn't win the election, either (glib, I know, but what the hell, it's early in the day). The airwaves aren't as monopolized as they were in the '70s, when ABC/CBS/NBC ruled uber all, but it's still disturbing enough to be reading about the developing controversy over the pending national broadcast of Path to 9/11 and see its promotion -- which plays up the docudrama's basis in the published 9/11 Commission Report -- and note the conflation of TV docudrama and documentary these ads are indeed nurturing.

    Hence, the following letter I sent earlier this week to ABC via
  • here, the "Working for Change" site.

  • A quick bit of background: Working for Change has mounted an aggressive campaign to call Disney & ABC on the carpet, soft-pedalling a bit by titling "Working Assets"'s online essay the link above takes you to, "ABC: Tell the Truth About 9/11.

    However, ABC's parent corporation is indeed Disney, and Disney and ABC's Republican leanings have been widely reported and evidence elsewhere. That's in the body of the essay, but not the headline, for what it's worth.

    Working Assets writes:

    "On September 10th and 11th, ABC -- which is owned by Disney -- is planning to air a "docu-drama" called Path to 9/11, which is being billed as "an objective telling of the events of 9/11." In fact, the film was written by an unabashed conservative who twists the facts to blame President Clinton."

    Note, in fact, screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh previously scripted & directed the TV movie The Day Reagan Was Shot (2001) -- produced by none other than Oliver Stone -- as well as the TV biopic about Black activist A. Philip Randolph and the Pullman Strike, 10,000 Black Men Named George (2002). That's not alarming in and of itself, nor does Path to 9/11 director David L. Cunningham have much to cite relevent here; it's primarily project parent corporations Disney and ABC setting off alarm bells for me.


    "In fact, the list of counterterrorism initiatives undertaken by the Clinton administration is lengthy and comprehensive. Regrettably, the record shows that most of these efforts were watered down or abandoned by the Bush administration when they came into office. History will also record that President Bush was the one who received -- and while on vacation, chose to ignore -- a Presidential Daily Briefing on August 6, 2001 entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US."

    ABC's new six-hour film was apparently screened in advance only to conservative bloggers and journalists -- and received extensive praise from none other than Rush Limbaugh. ABC is advertising the film as being "based on the 9/11 Commission report" -- yet also admits that it's a "docu-drama," in which writers and producers are free to invent and distort facts. Former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke has already completely refuted one of the key scenes of the movie.

    Terrorists, Path to 9/11 style

    It's simply stunning to think that as this fall's election approaches, a major television network would devote six hours of prime-time programming to air such a slanted and inaccurate program. There is simply no way that a conservative writer, with an anti-Clinton axe to grind, should be allowed to use public airwaves to broadcast a gross distortion of the truth -- especially on the anniversary of the worst day in our history."

    Well, I was initially wary of all this, and did some homework. It seems the film was indeed screened for conservative bloggers and journalists; Rush and other online conservative and neocon bloggers are touting the film; that Clinton administration officials other than Clarke have also expressed alarm over the content of the film, and indeed cuts and trims have already been made to address (on some level) those misrepresentations of the actual 9/11 Committee report; and most of all, the advertising I've seen -- in print and online -- touts the film as factual.

    Of course, there's already an adundance of 9/11 films, videos and DVDs circulating now -- including the essentially apolitical documentary On Native Soil (recommended, and as apolitical a doc on the subject as one can find amid all the potshots from both sides) and equally apolitical docudrama United 93, which I most highly recommend (potent, powerful filmmaking on many levels, and quite pure in its intent and impact), and reportedly apolitical Oliver Stone epic World Trade Center, still in theaters, which I've yet to see.

    If anything, one imagines ABC/Disney may be vying with national dis-ease and overload by the time Path to 9/11 is finally broadcast this weekend -- but damn it, the fucking GOP got Robert Allan Ackerman's utter tame, timid & toothless Ronald Reagan docudrama yanked off the air a mere two years ago for much less provocative content than Path to 9/11's already-controversial disconnect between the historical record and its promotion.

    Still reeling, too, from Hallmark Entertainment and Showtime Network revisionist atrocity DC 9/11: Time of Crisis (2003; a truly staggering take clearly refuted by so many aspects of the real 9/11 Commission report that one doesn't even know where to begin dismantling its audacious rewriting of history), I felt the need to register my discomfort with all this, especially given Disney & ABC's consolidated corporate power at this time.

    With all that in mind, I acted on the sites' "Call to action: Send a message to ABC asking them to cancel the show" (deadline: 9/10/2006), adapting the boilerplate letter to reflect the facts and my concerns more accurately.

    Here's my letter, in its entirity:

    [Revised subject line:]

    Presenting docudrama as fiction is one thing, but presenting it as fact is another -- This looks like sheer propaganda, and if so, needs to be cancelled!

    As a TV viewer of 51 years, I've long tempered my own view of what's "docudrama" and what's drama, based on experiencing what passes for docudrama in the broadcast arena.

    The offenses and abuses often outweigh the premise of being based upon factual accounts, though each work must be taken on its own merits and particulars. It's bad enough when such docudramas involve real-life murders, tragedies or horror stories, but when it involves nothing less than the most terrible day of America's recent history, one must pay more attention to anything presenting itself as fact or even as a docudrama than one would to a dramatization of a personal tragedy or murder case.

    PATH TO 9/11 promises to be a potent docudrama -- but your promotion of the upcoming PATH TO 9/11 is presenting this particular docu-drama AS FACT.

    Sight unseen, reacting ONLY to your OWN promotion of the program, I find this very disturbing, especially during a hotly-contested election season.

    Until I see the programming myself, I of course cannot judge its content. However, I can react to YOUR promotion of it.

    The fact -- FACT -- that the film was scripted by a self-proclaimed conservative activist, and already netting praise from pundits like Rush Limbaugh, is disturbing in the extreme. The FACT that ABC reportedly prescreened this six-hour opus only for conservative bloggers and journalists is also great cause for concern, indicating clearly that ABC had a targetted audience in mind, one based upon pre-determined ideological and political prejudices.

    This leads me to believe, with some basis of evidence, that the docudrama doesn't present our President lounging on the longest vacation in Presidential history just prior to 9/11. What other historical facts are skewed? I'll have to wait to see PATH TO 9/11, I reckon. But it doesn't sound promising.

    That you are presenting this speculative docudrama as FACT a scant two months before a national election in which Republicans have decided to make fear and security the central issues of their campaigns is grossly irresponsible and a great abuse of corporate power.

    I have read already that former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke has debunked one of the film's central scenes (a sequence involving Sandy Berger) as completely false. The fact that Clarke WAS there before 9/11, has been critical of the Bush Administration's handling of 9/11 before and after 9/11, and has written and spoken about his participation and the events that led up to and followed 9/11, is relevent: Clarke's opinion of PATH TO 9/11 carries considerable weight for me.

    If he's alarmed, I am alarmed. Especially if Rush is happy with your film. This doesn't sound promising as a docudrama reflecting anything truly factual.

    The screenwriter of PATH TO 9/11, Cyrus Nowrasteh, is an avowed conservative. He is an activist in the promotion of his political convictions via film and television, and has spoken on a panel entitled "How Conservatives Can Lead Hollywood's Next Paradigm Shift?"

    This is a recipe for disaster (pun intended), and clearly places the entire ABC Network's political affiliations, associations, assumptions and prejudices in the public arena for ALL TO SEE.

    If ABC were airing, at the same time, a six-hour docudrama or documentary presenting another take (the liberal take? I can't use the word "radical," as the conservatives and neoconservatives currently running this country have proven themselves more radical than any previous administration in my lifetime), I could see some semblence of balance or merit in broadcasting PATH TO 9/11.

    If ABC were promoting PATH TO 9/11 as FICTION, or perhaps science fiction, I could stomach that, too. If PATH TO 9/11 were being retitled TRIUMPH OF THE WILL 2, that might properly reflect the propagandistic intentions of the broadcast.

    If, if, if --

    But the ads I've seen thus far are presenting the film and promoting it AS FACTUAL.

    Let's be blunt.

    There is simply no way that the product of a radically conservative production team and screenwriter -- the latter with an anti-Clinton axe to grind and aggressive pro-conservative agenda to use Hollywood and TV movies to promote his political views -- can be allowed to use public airwaves to broadcast a gross distortion of the truth (a docudrama that participants in that historical reality are already identifying AS a gross distortion of the truth).

    That ABC is doing so on the anniversary of the most tragic day in our recent history -- a day already being shamelessly used in the most hideous manner imaginable to promote a radical conservative political agenda -- AND two months before an important national election, is sheer exploitation of the worst kind, and a betrayal of the network's pact with the public for use of the public airwaves.

    Unless I IMMEDIATELY see ads and promotional spots proclaiming PATH TO 9/11 as fiction, and specifically fictional propaganda produced to air a particular political viewpoint -- agitprop -- I call upon you to pull PATH TO 9/11 from its scheduled airing on Monday.

    Two years ago, the conservatives insisted upon the same for a far less insidious biographical docudrama about President Ronald Reagan.

    PATH TO 9/11 already promises to be a far, far greater offense.

    I look forward to your reply to my letter. Thank you for your attention.


    Stephen R. Bissette


    UPDATE: 12:50 PM:

    This just in on Path to 9/11 from -- I added a personal comment and signed -- please check it out, in part for the additional info and links to sources:

    Dear MoveOn member,

    In a little over 48 hours, ABC will air a five-hour "docudrama" on the 9/11 attacks. The movie was written and produced by a right-wing activist who fabricated key scenes to blame Democrats and defend Republicans.1 It's so partisan that even Rush Limbaugh was surprised ABC decided to air it.2 And an FBI agent who was brought in to consult on the docudrama quit because, he said, "they were making things up."3

    Public outrage is mounting across the country, and Variety reports that ABC is now "mulling the idea of yanking the mini altogether."4 But we only have a little time to act. We'll start delivering this petition to ABC headquarters tomorrow at noon and continue as more signatures come in. So we're looking for 200,000 signatures TODAY.

    Can you sign? Click here:

    Then please pass on this message to folks you know who can help.

    The Path to 9/11 appears to be part of a coordinated push—including speeches by President Bush and millions of dollars in advertising—to exploit the five-year anniversary of 9/11 for political gain. That's not acceptable from anyone—especially not a news organization like ABC.

    It's not just that ABC's movie is slanted. Big parts of it are simply untrue. The producer himself even admitted to simply improvising a key scene which depicts the Clinton administration letting bin Laden go when they had him in their sights—a complete fabrication.5 Last night, the movie's star, Harvey Keitel, said "It turned out not all the facts were correct."6

    It's really pretty simple: ABC shouldn't have any role in the political exploitation of 9/11. But this docudrama is designed to do just that—spreading a false message to millions of viewers across the country.

    Sign the petition to tell ABC not to air partisan propaganda on 9/11. Click here:

    Thank you for all you do.

    Nita, Eli, Carrie, Joan, Jennifer and the Political Action Team
    Friday, September 8th, 2006

    P.S. For the most current information on the scandal involving this film, and for more information on the movie itself, please visit our friends at ThinkProgress:

    1. "Writer of ABC's 9/11 'Docudrama' Is Avowed Conservative Activist," ThinkProgress, September 1, 2006

    2. "Clintonoids Prepare To Attack 9/11 Movie," The Rush Limbaugh Show, August 30, 2006

    3. "FBI Agent Who Consulted On Path to 9/11 Quit," ThinkProgress, September 7, 2006

    4. "Under fire, ABC mulls yanking mini," Variety, September 7, 2006

    5. Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher, MSNBC appearance, September 7, 2006

    6. "Harvey Keitel speaks out on Path to 9/11: 'It turned out not all the facts were correct'", Showbiz Tonight, September 7, 2006

    Act as your own conscience dictates, and see you here over the weekend...