First Published: 2007-09-08

 
Carter’s Palestine book highlighted in Demme documentary
 

Documentary ‘Man from Plains’ follows Carter’ on ‘Palestine: Peace not Apartheid’ book tour.

 

Middle East Online

Demme: ‘Jimmy Carter is obsessed with peace’

VENICE, Italy - Former US president Jimmy Carter takes on America's mainstream media with a controversial book on the Middle East in a Jonathan Demme documentary that premiered Friday at the Venice film festival.

The documentary portrait "Man from Plains" follows Carter all over America on his tour late last year to promote the book, provocatively titled "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid."

The 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate comes under criticism but stands firm under the Klieg lights as he calmly defends the book, often flashing his trademark smile, as thoroughly researched and balanced in interview after interview.

"In America in general there's a huge fear of being accused of anti-Semitism if one is critical of Israel," Demme, Oscar-winning director of "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991), told a news conference, adding that the US media today are expected to "entertain rather than enlighten."

Executive producer Diane Weyermann added: "People are looking for more independent analysis and information and wanting to understand, and not just be given news bites. We hope this film is a window into some of the complexities of the situation in the Middle East."

Perhaps as a response to this hunger, "documentaries have proliferated in America since Michael Moore ("Roger and Me," "Bowling for Columbine," "Fahrenheit 9/11") opened that door years ago," Demme said, calling the blinkered media a "catastrophe for America."

"We make the film as America approaches (2008) elections. Whether you like (Carter) or not ... his initiatives are mind-blowing. They stand in stark contrast to (US President George W.) Bush's initiatives. The film may become some kind of reference point for political candidates," he said.

"We live in a country where our president is obsessed with war and how to destroy the enemy. Jimmy Carter is obsessed with peace."

"It's extraordinary to be around a person like that who has a certain cachet of power as a former US president," Demme said. "He uses that cachet every minute of the day to help humanity, to help improve things for people all over the world and in his country."

During the book tour clouded by controversy, "The TV media were anxious for something to seize on," Demme said. "More and more that's all people wanted to talk about, was the title. 'You've got a controversial title,' they said.

"It was as if they were relieved that they didn't have to talk about the occupation, the land-taking, the oppression -- then we'd have to respond, we'd have to have an opinion about that."

The film opens with scenes from Carter's tiny home town in Plains, Georgia, where he still lives with his wife Rosalynn on land that his family has owned for generations.

He visits the grave of Rachel Clark, the black servant who mothered him when his mother Lillian, a nurse, was away.

"From a very early age the idea of any kind of racial discrimination was destroyed for him," Demme said. "Rachel Clark instilled humanitarian values in him."

Carter also had a "tremendous love of the land," Demme said. "It became easier for me to understand why ... visiting the Holy Land (as a tourist) when he sees land taken away from Palestinians as a man of the land it makes his blood boil."

When Demme's team set out to make the documentary, "the first time he's ever agreed to a film of this nature," according to Weyermann, it was to paint a more general portrait of Carter.

But the window of opportunity opened on to the book tour, so the producers happily seized on the Palestinian question as an anchor.

"It was fortuitous timing," co-executive producer Ron Bozman said, adding that the film was pared down from 370 hours of filming.

Demme said Carter succeeded in giving "a cynic like me belief in the possibility of peace, not a foolish hope, not pie-in-the-sky hope, but a real turning away from violence."

‘Palestine: Peace not Apartheid’ can be ordered at Amazon.com.

 

Bloodshed in Gaza surges amid no truce

Major western powers call for Libya ceasefire

UN warns buying oil from terrorists could lead to sanctions

Syria rebels advance towards Hama military airport

Emirates airline to avoid flying over Iraq

Italian fire-fighting planes to come to Libya rescue

US-Israeli ties sink to new depths over Gaza war

Air Algerie crash black boxes sent to France

Warning of Tripoli catastrophe after huge oil depot blaze

US, UN call for immediate Gaza ceasefire

Egypt army kills 14 jihadists in restive Sinai Peninsula

Calls for temporary Gaza ceasefire fall on deaf ears

Yemen army foils new Qaeda attempt to seize military posts

Investigators need ‘few days’ to probe cause of Algeria plane crash

Tunisia army suffers more losses in open war with terrorism

Jihadists advance amid escalation in Syria anti-regime offensive

Iraq Shiite militia takes bloody revenge against ‘Islamic State’ in Baquba

Fierce clashes kill at least 38 people in Benghazi

Israel resumes devastating military assault on Gaza

Thousands face famine as food security situation worsens in Somalia

Death toll in Gaza climbs as fragile ceasefire reveals destruction

Egypt summons Turkey charge d'affaires for second time in one week

‘Islamic State’ jihadists dynamite Shiite shrine in Mosul

US evacuates embassy staff in Libya over ‘real risk’

Investigators begin 'difficult' probe into Air Algerie plane disaster

Armed men snatch Head of Baghdad Provincial Council

‘Islamic State’ beheads Syrian soldiers in Raqa

Kerry in Paris for talks on long-term Gaza truce

Hezbollah chief speaks out on Gaza

Two rival Islamic states in Syria power struggle

Crete protest against Syria chemicals destruction in Mediterranean

74 killed in IS assault on Syria regime territory

Iran confirms arrest of Washington Post correspondent

Somali 'Shebab commanders' killed in AU offensive

Paris: survivors of Air Algerie jet crash 'unlikely'

Jordan shots down drone near Syria border

Gaza civilian toll spiralling to above 800

UN urges Europe to tackle Mediterranean migrant crisis

From Israel with ‘virus’: Death threat letter reaches Palestinian mission in France

Ordeal of ‘apostasy’ woman ends with departure from Sudan

Another bloody day as Israel targets civilians in UN-run school

‘Islamic State’ launches multiple attacks on Syria army

Attack on Egypt army post bears fingerprints of foreign intelligence

Harassment of Christians escalates in Islamist-run Sudan

Air Algerie plane goes missing over Mali