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.

 

US expresses horror at South Sudan violence

Syrian MP first-ever challenger for first-ever presidential election

Egypt's next president will have to deal with frustrated workers

Rival Palestinian leaders agree on national unity govt

Dubai's Emaar posts huge Q1 profit

Hezbollah veto dashes Geagea dreams of presidency

UN aid chiefs make impassionate call for Syria access

Police brigadier general killed in Cairo bomb attack

11 new MERS infections registered in Saudi

EU denounces Syria plans for June 3 election

Iran envoy row fails to make headway at UN

Amnesty: Qatar fails to protect domestic workers

US will deliver 10 Apache choppers to Egypt to counter terrorism

Jumblatt backs lawmaker Henri Helou for Lebanon presidency

Global chemical watchdog: Syria weapons handover at 86.5 percent

Kerry ‘prefers’ Cold War-like situation to current complex challenges

Israel to call up Christian Arabs for military service

Egypt prosecutors submit new evidence in Jazeera trial

Families of Iran prisoners break silence over abuses at notorious Evin

Lebanon sends rare aid to its territory in Syria

Iran divorce rate increases amid slow population growth

Suspected militant attacks kill four Yemen officers in two days

Distrust casts shadow over South Kordofan peace talks

Ali Tarhuni heads Libya constituent assembly

Washington revisits story of Syria chemical weapons

PM Erdogan to tour Europe for expat presidency votes

Erdogan to May Day protesters: Give up on your hopes of Taksim!

Palestine plays down threat to dismantle PA

South Sudan army battle rebels as insurgents target oil fields

Two Somali MPs shot dead in 24 hours

MERS death toll keeps climbing in Saudi

Court deals blow to US administration on drone attacks

Berber protesters clash anew with Algeria police

US has 'indications' of new chemical attacks in Syria

Blood flows in Iraq as general election looms next week

Saudi Arabia sacks Health Minister as MERS toll rises

South Sudan Rebels massacre ‘hundreds’ of civilians in Bentiu

Battle for presidency underway in Lebanon without clear frontrunner

Mauritania goes to polls to pick new president on June 21

A milestone for Libya: Constituent assembly starts drafting new constitution

Gaza in new attempt to reach most-wanted Palestinian reconciliation

Civil war fails to dissuade Syria regime: Presidential date fixed for June 3

Turkey agrees to increase shipments of natural gas from Russia

Palestinians in Gaza fire rockets into Israel

Saudi sentences five to death over 2003 Qaeda attacks