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-backed forces capture key Syria oil field

Iraq PM arrives in Saudi to upgrade ties

UN ends Libya talks with no progress made

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

More than half of Austrians vote for anti-immigration party

Washington sees potential Hezbollah threat in the US

Cairo killing sparks security concerns among Copts

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign