Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

ACADEMY AWARDS Shortlist Named—Facing Ali on the list

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

My friends, a little good news. Facing Ali had the good fortune of being shortlisted (final 15) for the Academy Award nominations. Surreal—but congratulations to everybody involved. I feel profoundly fortunate to have directed this film, to have met all those legendary fighters, and to have worked with such a great team. And congratulations to all the other films that were shortlisted.

Pete

FACING ALI: Pete McCormack’s feats of Clay

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Some really generous, recent comments from the Warren Report, and an interview I did with Warren Etheredge when Facing Ali was at the Seattle International Film Festival:

FACING ALI redefines the boxing legend thru the remembrances of his reverent opponents. Their stories are startling: hopeful, heart-breaking, heroic yet oh-so-human. (George Chuvalo’s post-fight celebration and later familial tragedy rank amongst the most memorable movie moments of the year.)

Filmmaker Pete McCormack coaxes these tales with the finesse of the Champ, luring the fighters into his corner, always mindful of their contributions to the sport and respectful of their sufferings. (The gradual revelation of Ken Norton’s shocking “downfall” floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.) Like Muhammad, McCormack is a showman with a gentleman’s heart. And, in this year of competitive documentaries, he stands shoulder to shoulder with The Greatest.

See the comments here and the interview here.

You know, you can’t worry about reviews and so on, but it still remains a great thing to be loved a little.

Speaking of which, lots of love to you,

Pete

FACING ALI IN VARIETY

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

The first review in a major publication for Facing Ali, July 15, 2009 in Variety, which is an important Hollywood Industry magazine. A few appreciated phrases below:


“…first-rate…” “…so compelling…” “…impeccably researched…” “…excruciatingly moving…” “…top-notch production values…” “…nuanced insights…” “…extraordinary tales…”

The full review is here.

As the review intimates, the ten boxers really were terrific. I have such affection, compassion and respect for their stories, and their candor. I hope putting a good review on line doesn’t seem full blown. Samantha said it was cool. Heck, these things are fleeting, opinions, but I really would like the film, and these guys’ stories, to be seen and heard—and Lord knows I’ve posted bad reviews, too.

Pete

FACING ALI Academy Release July 10-16 in New York and Los Angeles

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Hope all is well. This is a blog for all those wonderful folks who have written or called or wondered where and when they can see Facing Ali. First off, I’d love you to see it! I’m not the only one. Check out this photo of ‘The Greatest.’

I’ve been lucky enough to be at full screenings in Seattle, Washington DC and Los Angeles, and I cannot say enough about how generous and enthusiastic the crowds have been. It was like family—families who really love each other. It’s also been shown in Nantucket and Maui.

For now, though, FACING ALI is opening June 10th for a limited one week engagement in LA and New York in what is called an Academy Release. This allows the film to have a shot at an Academy Award nomination. Wouldn’t that be something? That happens, and you’ll all see it.

If you happen to be near either of these two theatres, I’m so happy. If you know anyone near those places, please send an email or make a phone call.

New York:
New Coliseum Theatre
703 West 181st Street
New York, NY 10033

Los Angeles:
Laemmle Claremont 5
450 West Second Street
Claremont, CA 91711

If not, damn I’m sorry. Either way, spread the word if you’ve seen the film, or spread the word if you want to see it. You will love these ten guys who fought Ali, had their lives changed forever, and were a huge part of Muhammad Ali’s evolution. I loved ‘em.

The TRAILER is here.

And check this out for three online reviews.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

FACING ALI in Los Angeles

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

“If you even dream of beating me you better wake up and apologize.”
—Muhammad Ali

We haven’t had any newspaper reviews yet for Facing Ali, but received three much appreciated online five star reviews from people at the Seattle International Film Festival. This is one that I could read over more than once:

(May 29, 2009) Floats like a butterfly…

By Richard Erwin

“…stings like a bee. A fantastic movie. It reminds you of what boxing is for so many who’ve attempted it—a way out of a bad life, and no guarantee that you’ll get what you seek, even when you’ve achieved it. The interviews with each of the boxers that faced Ali were each a gem in their own right, but taken together….one of the best sports, hell, documentaries about lives, and what bound them together, ever.”

SILVERDOCS

Had a great time in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside of Washington DC, at the SilverDocs festival. The crowd for Facing Ali was wonderfully animated. It’s really fulfilling to the see the film with a crowd. The Q&A was moderated by the very well-informed sports journalist David Dupree—and I met many terrific, interesting people. There’s another showing tomorrow night, the 22nd, at 8:pm.

I went into DC on the morning of the screening and took some archival b-roll of the city! After all, one never knows what the next project might be (but one does know archive will be expensive!), and with the White House, the Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Federal Reserve and the Capitol Dome all within a fifteen minute walk of each other (some minutes apart), and a little High Def camera in my hands, well, I couldn’t resist. Got a quick ‘don’t-do-that’ from security for using a foot long Joby tripod trying to get decent shots of the marble President Lincoln, but it all worked out. What a statue that is. It’s etched in my ol’ gray matter from Mr Smith Goes To Washington—and, yes, that film is a few decades before my time.

It was surreal to see it all. Couldn’t get within a half mile of the White House. The rumour was helicopters were landing there. Two security guys were on the roof. Well, I hope they were security guys.

It’s heartbreaking to see the names of the something like 59,000 American soldiers who were killed during the invasion of Vietnam, all engraved on the Vietnam monument. 59,000. And then to consider for a moment that something like 3.4 million people died in Indochina altogether during that horrific war (I guess horrific as an adjective for war is redundant). I say Indochina because one should never forget the horrific and illegal (wasn’t it all illegal?)—well, even more illegal carpet bombings of Cambodia and Laos.

LAFF

Facing Ali is then in LA on the 27th and 28 at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and I heard there was a coming-to-theatres-soon TV commercial for the Facing Ali, which is exciting. May it come to Vancouver!

From the LAFF website:

Gorgeously shot [the Red Camera—shot beautifully by Ian Kerr] against the rich reds and browns of boxing rings, gyms and arenas, Facing Ali tells the stories of ten men who faced the charismatic, fast-talking dynamo some believe was the greatest fighter of all time: Muhammad Ali.

Using dynamic graphics [graphics by the super creative Jeremy Unrau] and gorgeous archival footage to quickly set down the facts of Ali’s life and career, McCormack delves into the history of each contest and the boxer who fought it. Forgoing testimony from sportswriters and celebrity fans [and no narration], McCormack lets these ten men tell their story and Ali’s entirely in their own words [I can't express how great and diverse the ten guys were—Cooper, Chuvalo, Terrell, Frazier, Norton, Foreman, Lyle, Shavers, Leon Spinks, Holmes].

The history they reveal is unexpectedly moving. The chance to fight Ali was life changing, and many acknowledge that boxing is a profession of last resort for the poor. The film also reveals the darker side of the confidence and drive that helped make Ali the hero he is but also may have kept him in the ring longer than he should have stayed. As one of his opponents [Ron Lyle] notes, “You can lose your life giving the people what they want to see.”

In sum, it was a thrill to be in DC and at the festival in Silver Spring—and inspiring to see people so moved and enthused and touched by these ten great boxers, who fought Muhammad Ali, as they tell their rich stories.

Looking forward to LA. I’ll be in attendance for both viewings.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

THE PLIGHT OF REFUGEES, INTERNALLY PLACED PERSONS and BEING HUMAN

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

In June 2008, after a night of terror in a refugee camp for Darfur refugees in Chad (terror perpetrated by refugees living there), a group of courageous women living there decided to speak out. They created a document that has come to be called the Farchana Manifesto.

This short piece tells their story and discusses some of the problems with long-term refugee camps, a lack of refugee rights, a lack of citizenship, IDPs (internally displaced people), the treatment of women and the pressures and demands on the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

At the end there are a also a few more refugee/IDP statistics (footnotes to the right of the piece) from around the world. The numbers of Iraqis forced from their homes since the American invasion of 2003 is worth knowing, and its interesting to see which countries are willing to take in the most refugees.

There’s an informative interview on Iraq refugees from the wonderful journalist Deborah Campbell on Democracy Now here, from 2008.

Ivan Gayton, the friend I interviewed at the beginning of the piece (and who interviewed the unnamed and inspiring and courageous refugee woman above), is as far as I know in a deeply disrupted Pakistan right now, I think Peshawar, doing humanitarian work. I emailed him a week or so ago, I will try again today, and I’m hoping to hear back soon. if I hear from him, I’ll offer what updates I can.

Wishing you, and all sisters and brothers, lots of love, awareness, compassion and freedom,

Pete

EL CONTRATO—Mexican Migrant Workers in Canada

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Continuing from the previous blog, here’s a revealing and provocative film called El Contrato from the national Film Board of Canada. It is about the challenges facing Mexican migrant farm workers shipped to Canada from Mexico on eight month work contracts. Although the film only gives the side of the workers, the film is still very worth seeing. The conditions these brothers (I didn’t see any women) work under are often brutal and degrading and abusive—and who can be against giving a voice to the almost always voiceless? Not me.

The 49 minute film can be seen in its entirety here.

Workers who have left their family and sometimes children in Mexico and sign contracts in Canada have them being paid $7.50 an hour, working ten hours a day, seven days a week for eight straight months. Then something like a quarter of the paltry wage they make goes to government taxes and other payments. Perhaps it is better than what could be made in Mexico, but it is against the labour laws of Canada, that have been fought on behalf of human dignity and rights for for a hundred years or more.

Here’s to remembering how important it is that people, communities, continue to come together…

On that note, and speaking of Mexico, it is important to remember that the fight of the indigenous people in Chiapas continues unabated. I’m not sure of the accuracy of the numbers, but I have heard a third of Mexico’s military forces remain stationed in Chiapas, and human rights abuses and State terror continue. A friend of mine is traveling there soon to offer her expertise in helping those who have suffered terrorism and torture. See Nettie Wild’s film A Place Called Chiapas, from the mid 1990s.

Lots of love,

Pete

SALT OF THE EARTH: The Endless Struggle for Human Dignity Continues

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Lately researching the remarkable mining history and Union history in the Kootenay regions of British Columbia, Canada, and reading about the conditions of migrant workers in the farms in the Lower Mainland of wealthy British Columbia even today, the information continues to be eye-opening, disconcerting and heart-breaking—and these people deserve our support, for the love of god.

But reading about and remembering and seeing the vigilance and determination of people over centuries up to this very second, risking everything to live lives of dignity and anything resembling equality is endlessly inspiring.

SPEAKING OF IDEOLOGY: Startling Juxtaposition

In 1954, On The Waterfront (portraying longshoreman, and thus Unions, as corrupt) came out perfectly (and not coincidentally, I am sure) in time with McCarthyism and the ongoing House Committee on UnAmerican Activities. It received countless accolades (the movie, I mean, from most people, and the House Committee from many—and vitriol, too).

The director Elia Kazan, who was “…among the first to cooperate with the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities in 1952, which led to the blacklisting that ruined many careers in Hollywood because of their political beliefs”, won Best Director at the Academy Awards and Marlon Brando’s famous lines were uttered: “I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum

In life’s remarkable irony, and inherent counterforce, another movie was made that same Cold War year of 1954. It was called Salt of the Earth. It was banned in both Canada and the States—which is shockingly hard to believe.

Salt of the Earth‘s director was Herbert Biberman, one of the so-called Hollywood Ten, blacklisted and jailed for over six months for not naming names—of friends—as Elia Kazan had.

It was put together by black-listed writers and directors. Post-production services, evidently, wouldn’t even help them, likely, often, for fear of reprisals. The film was was paid for, at least in part, by the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers. It was based—I don’t know how closely—on the real-life and brutal strike by Mexican-American and “Anglo” miners against the appalling conditions imposed by the Empire Zinc Company.

I just saw it. My heart broke the entire time.

It is deeply worth watching, for its historical significance, the fact that it was banned, its use of professional and unprofessional actors, its (light) description of racism even within the Unions and the effect of hammering the Union men unintentionally pushing further the Women’s Rights movement.

Also, as a note, Will Geer (who played the Grandpa in the Waltons when I was a kid) play the sheriff.

Humans is as humans are, but the struggle for dignity, rights and something resembling equality will never end.

In an interview with Noam Chomsky, he said:

We don’t know anything much about human nature except that it’s rich and complex and common to the entire species and determines everything we do. Beyond that, it’s mostly speculation.

But a look at history and perception of what we see, does, I think, lend some credibility to a traditional view coming out of the Enlightenment—it is at the core of liberalism, the ideals we are supposed to honour but disregard—which says that fundamental to human nature is a kind of instinct for freedom, which shows up in creative activities.

This is actually the core of Cartesian philosophy, the core of Enlightenment political thought. And I think we see plenty of examples of it: people struggling all over the world for freedom.

They don’t like to be oppressed.

Are Unions perfect? Far from it. Were they racist in the past? Often. Are they monolithic in the present? In so many ways. Would there be the human rights we have today without them—the eight hour day, minimum wages, child labour laws, safety labour laws, health benefits, maternity leave? Not a chance.

NOT A CHANCE; NOT A PRAYER; NOT A HOPE. I try to always remember this fact.

And nothing, nothing, from my reading and observation, drove people towards so-called radical socialism, and into Unions, and nothing pushed women towards so-called equality, more than the extreme greed, oppression and self-defined superiority of so-called industrial capitalists, and their earlier incarnations.

The two live off each other, and define the other—and one lives a lot better off than the other. They have been used by despots and barons and tyrants since before their names were known.

Again, on many levels, I can’t recommend the film enough. Banned. Geezuz.

Tons of love, dignity and solidarity to you,

Pete

SEATTLE and the FACING ALI PREMIERE: TONIGHT!

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Well, my friends, today’s the day. FACING ALI is having its first ever public screening at the Seattle International Film Festival tonight, 7:00 (and tomorrow at the Egyptian Theatre). I’m driving down there, leaving in a few minutes, down the 99 to the I-5. Here’s to hoping the border’s clear, people come, and they have a great experience!

And may it look good…

Ali (don’t) bomaye!

Ali (don’t) kill him! We’re all in this together, after all. Here’s to joy.

Lots of love to you—armed with yoga, stand and fight!

Pete

MUHAMMAD ALI at SILVERDOCS for FACING ALI

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world.
—Muhammad Ali

I just heard the coolest news. Muhammad Ali has confirmed to be in attendance for the screening of FACING ALI at the Silverdocs Documentary Festival in Washington DC in the middle of June (I think the 16th).

That’s a wonderful thing for a kid (now 44) who directed Facing Ali and who, as a younger kid in elementary school, used to hand in spontaneous essays on Ali because…well, d-uh, he was the greatest. It was about the only work I did, if I remember correctly. No, there was the 50-page report on sharks, too—I loved sharks—and the five-foot papier-maché replicate hammerhead.

I didn’t have any gray paint, so I painted the poor creature beige. No one said a word. The underbelly was still white. Then my sister took ‘ol hammerhead to school for her grade eight project, never brought it back, and it ended up getting incinerated by some janitor who obviously didn’t get the lumpy and beige yet sublime skill of my artistic endeavor. But that, my friends, really was pretty much all the work I did.

I loved the Montreal Canadiens, as well, but that had very little to do with school. Au contraire.

Either way, after a couple of years of fanatical research, countless hours of archive-diving, interviewing some of his greatest (and forceful) opponents and all else required, collaboratively with a great team, I really look forward to meeting him (Muhammad Ali, that is—not the hammerheads).

Lots of love to you,

Pete

THE DANISH POET: A beautiful little film

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

The other day I stumbled upon this lovely Academy Award winning, 14 minute animated film called The Danish Poet. Checked, and of course, it’s on youtube. Really a sweet watch. Watching, I just loved the narration, and it turned out to be the wonderful Liv Ullman, from countless movies. She does all the characters in the same voice. It’s great. She was in a lot of Ingemar Bergman films.

Anyway, it’s here, and reminds us of the sheer ‘remarkability’ that we’re here at all. The Danish Poet, on youtube:

Lots of love to you, and all those who somehow got together to help make us,

Pete

FACING ALI in SEATTLE (May 29, June 1)

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

For those in Seattle and area, FACING ALI is at the Seattle International Film Festival. I think it should be a great time.

These are the two dates (maybe double check at the SIFF site to make sure I got it right).

Pacific Place Cinema 600 Pine Street, 4th floor
Friday 7:00 pm

The Egyptian Theater 801 East Pine Street
Saturday 1:45 pm

Oh, and I will be in attendance. Whether there will be a Q&A afterwards, I don’t know, but hopefully, because they’re always a lot of fun.

The trailer:

Lots of love to you,
Pete

PBS HIJACKED: Well, not PBS, but the PFLP, September 6, 1970

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Although some would actually say PBS has been hijacked, by lefties, commies, deviants and atheists. Others would say it’s been hijacked by right wing foundations and multinationals and undercover elites. Some national public institutions can’t win. You should see what happens to CBC radio here, under the Harper government.

All I know is PBS makes a lot of fascinating documentaries, and even shows a lot of them online, for free. And in the outer territories of a given country, thank the Lord for public radio.

They were actually, practically the only place, until the internet, that truly original, alternative voices were heard—voices that inspire great movements in a given place.

Anyway, the other day I saw an interesting PBS look-back film called HIJACKED. It was on the hijacking of five planes by the PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—which took place in 1970, and some say birthed the concept of global terrorism. This form of terrorism, of course, is to be differentiated from local terrorism, State terrorism and World Wars, which have been going on for quite a bit longer, all of which are terrifying and deadly.

For the record, the PFLP were not a religious group. They were and I think still are Marxist in ideology.

GROWING PAINS FOR HUMANITY

Whatever the Hijacking birthed, the Palestinian question remains unanswered. Hell, I’m not even sure what the question is. Is there a different value on deaths of different peoples? Should citizens be punished in the name of a given State? A given people? What is the relative or humanistic value of a nation state? Can privilege for a select religious or ethnic group exist beside democracy? That said, what exactly is democracy? What is the difference between terrorism and State terrorism?

Whatever the deep and ultimately moral answers of such questions may be, citizens do pay the price—often the ultimate price, as we have seen in large numbers (with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian story) in Gaza and Lebanon in the last few years—across the world, and certainly some lives are more protected and defended than others.

From the PBS website:

“Thirty-six years ago a new era in global terrorism was born. Just moments after lift-off on the morning of September 6, 1970, passengers on TWA’s flight 74 from Frankfurt to New York were startled to hear an announcement over the plane’s PA system:

“This is your new captain speaking. This flight has been taken over by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”

Minutes later, travelers on another New York-bound plane, Swissair Flight 100, faced the same chilling reality….

Elsewhere on the site:

They commandeered a fifth aircraft three days later. Wanting to attract attention to the Palestinian cause and secure the release of several of their comrades, the P.F.L.P. spectacularly blew up four of the planes [with no people inside—these were early days].

Today the commanders who planned and carried out the attack resist comparison to the terrorists who masterminded the events of September 11, 2001: members of the P.F.L.P. were not religious extremists, but secular Marxist Leninists.

And of the almost 600 passengers taken hostage, none were killed. And yet more than three decades later, it is clear that a connection exists between the two seminal events, that September 6, 1970 gave birth to a new era of terrorism.

Incidentally, one of the hijackers was a US citizen, Patrick Arguello, who was shot and killed while the plane was in the air. His Nicaraguan roots and what he’d seen done to his country by the CIA and the Americans in the early 50s (the overthrow of Arbenz) evidently influence him towards the Sandinista movement and, later, towards his Palestinian sympathies.

Two different comments from interviewees were worth writing down—I thought, anyway:

This from a British journalist (now novelist) who was on the site in the desert in Jordan where the planes were landed. Gerald Seymour described how, after the planes were hijacked and landed, the hijackers had no real plan of what to do next, and what this means to him upon reflection.

From Seymour:

They [the P.F.L.P. hijackers] did not have the sophistication [to think through the entire mission, beyond attracting the world's attention to their cause]. Nor, let it be said, did they at that time have the ruthlessness to press home the initial attacks on the airplane by killing people. They did npt have that ruthlessness. Okay, they were to learn it, but they hadn’t got it then.”

And William B Quandt, who worked with the National Security Council for many years, said:

“Once you get started with this kind of militancy, it’s hard to turn it off [one could extrapolate this comment to a thousand places, from global terrorism, to arms build up, to colonization, to invasion for business reasons etc etc]…people begin to compete for ways of doing a more dramatic [I can’t read my writing! but I think the world might be plan].

It’s difficult to stop once you developed that as your modus operandi.”

Anyway, historical food for thought.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

AN ORGANIC FARM IN INDIA: Bio-Fuel, Solar Power, Vegetarian, Cow Dung…

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

What more could you ask for? That must be a pretty sweet vibration, overall, huh? Here’s a little video from a visit we were privileged to have just outside of Mysore. I didn’t know a dung thing about bio-fuel. In fact, my knowledge was in a slurry state.

I left out the fact that they also used cow urine as a natural fertilizer. Here’s to the stupendous, incredible, bountiful Mother Earth.

And may we learn to walk a little softer, and think of the whole thing as family, and I do not mean that at all sentimentally. Sister, brother, somehow, we are on this walk together…

Lots of love to you,

Pete xoxo

FACING ALI at the LA FILM FESTIVAL

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

If anyone is in LA in mid-June (of course, lots of people are in LA in mid-June), Facing Ali will be at the Los Angeles Film Festival. See SUMMER SHOWCASE on this page here. The dates are not yet confirmed.

I think I’ll probably be there. Heck, I’d love to be there,

Pete

The Human Highway with its ten thousand road maps

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Provocative, wonderful-looking film trailer sent by a friend. What a gig to do! Peter Rodger’s Oh My God.

And to think, we’re all actually brothers and sisters, crazily, wildly, genetically related. It has been suggested (Michael Wood, the Story of India) that everyone in the world—first out of Africa, which is the Mother of the Mother, and look how we treat Her—can trace their lineage back to south India, where people arrived, from Africa, across the Arabian peninsula, some 70,000 or 80,000 years ago. This evidence appears via a gene called the M130, and whatever else scientists do to figure this out. Not unsurprisingly, perhaps, M130 sounds like a highway. A human highway still being constructed.

The southern state home of the M130 in India is called Kerala. And it is beautiful. People of the three major religions get along remarkably well, and the state government is the Communist Party! One sees religious symbols and sickles and hammers co-mingling all over the place. I use the term communism loosely (what is communism, anyway?), but it just goes to show you that the generalizations about these manufactured concepts of tribe and ideology and religion are sketchy at best, and limited undoubtedly. Go to your heart first, and remember…

Lots of love to you, sister and brother,

Pete

FINAL PRE-FIGHT PREPARATIONS ON FACING ALI

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Well, my friends, yesterday morning, after working with the brilliant graphic artist Jeremy Unrau on the graphics and with Derik Murray, the very creative producer of the film, coming in to see the changes, I feel for the first time that Facing Ali is really finished…

Uh…okay, almost completely, within a few not-even-worth-mentioning but might-take-a-little-time, but more or less, yes, a few details notwithstanding, finished.

Actually, there are next week some large technical details requiring the marriage of audio and video, but I think I’ll wake up a lot less at night thinking, “Damn, what about…?” or “I think I forgot…” etc.

You get my point.

It’s a relieving feeling. And unless I’m crazy, I’m sure the ten boxers in the film really shine, which warms my heart. Why? Because they were not only great interviewees and had big achievements in their careers, but because boxers notoriously, both physically and financially, have for decades got the raw end of the deal.

Former contender Gerry Cooney puts it this way:

All of the sports have a safety net, but boxing is the only sport that has none. So when the fighter is through, he is through. While he was fighting his management was very excited for him, but now that he is done, that management team is moving on.

Or as Muhammad himself put it (Muhammad Ali, that is):

Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up.

And with the rise of Ultimate Fighting, who knows to where boxing will go or evolve—or not?

And those involved in the Facing Ali film process did such beautiful work, from the cinematography to the archive to the editing to the music to the graphics.

So today, I sit slightly bewildered, out of sorts even, with my brain and the film able to take a real night off. Then back in the studio early next week, but I swear it’s mostly technical. I swear. Seriously.

The Facing Ali trailer is here. And for those who haven’t got the quicktime, or whatever’s needed, it’s also on youtube.

Seriously.

All else is well. Lots of love to you and yours, and may you be feeling creative,

Pete

FACING ALI

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Directing Facing Ali was a grand experience, and I’m super proud if I have helped these ten warriors who lived through an incredible time, tell their side of the story, and therein, Muhammad Ali’s, and a little slice of American history. How we remember things is not as clear as we might think.

Just as the remarkable Martin Luther King was in 1965 the FBI’s Public Enemy #1, the almost universally celebrated Muhammad Ali today was despised and booed by the majority in the country (see the Ali-Liston II fight introduction, 1965) even before he said no to Vietnam. When that happened in ’66, all hell broke loose in his life, inside an already and increasingly fiery decade of social unease.

The trailer for FACING ALI is here on the Apple site.

Here’s an imbedded version.

The ten champions in the film, no narration, just telling their story, are Smokin’ Joe Frazier, George Foreman, George Chuvalo, Larry Holmes, Ken Norton, Ernie Terrell, Leon Spinks, Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers and Sir Henry Cooper. I think you’ll love them.

FOOD, INC.

Also, I noticed on the Apple site a documentary that should be seen by everybody (ah, if only!), because it is so vital to us humans and the planet, and the spirit. It won’t get all that hype of a so-called blockbuster, to be sure, but it’s called FOOD, INC. I’ve quoted Eric Schlosser (who is in the trailer and wrote Fast Food Nation) a number of times on this site. And god love the brilliant director Robert Kenner (John Brown’s Holy War, Two Days in October) and the rest who put that film together. We are, as actual human beings, part of this environment, as it has (or had) been for millions of evolving years. We’d probably do well to keeping that in mind, and eating accordingly.

Plus we have no inherent right to unnecessarily bludgeon animals simply to max-max-maximize profits, at the price of ignorance and health in the short term, and human existence in the long term. That is, in my opinion, criminal—and the so-called War on Drugs and disasters of that nature are just distractions from deeply serious perversions like what we are doing to our food system.

The FOOD, INC trailer is here.

Lots of love to all sisters and brothers, noble warriors, and the rest of the beings supporting this gorgeous planet,

Pete

WHAT’S GOING DOWN—REDUX: The Century plus a decade, in Review

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

I don’t know what redux means, but it’s sort of what I once saw for a souped up version of Apocalypse Now, and I wanted to add a little prestige and good company to my stuff. I mean, isn’t that my prerogative as a woman? Okay, I’m a man, but what the heck? So with this What’s Going Down—Redux video, with a budget of zero, I added a whole bunch of the lyrics, trying to get a handle on the ‘Motion’ program in Final Cut Pro—a video editing system, and called it REDUX. Plus I wanted to change the world. That’s proved more difficult.

I think it’s okay, though (the video I mean—the world needs constant care and vigilance), and believe you me, it’s being watched by nearly nobody, at the speed of sound. But not for long. Okay, maybe for long.

But if you pass it around and they pass it around, and so on, we can catch up to Britney Spears 70 million plus viewings of Womanizer. Even saying her name means most will go there even before pressing on below.

WHAT’S GOING DOWN REDUX

Along with JFK, G W Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Hitler, Stalin, Kissinger, Mao Tse Tung, Martin Luther King, Oswald, Mossadegh, Allende, Fred Hampton, J Edgar Hoover, Colin Powell, the Bail Out, Wolfowitz, Allen Dulles, Castro, some Saudi Arabian Sheik, Saddam Hussein, that North Korean dictator whose name I can’t remember, Jimmy Hoffa, Idi Amin, that incredibly brave unknown hero from Tienanman Square and a few others, the video also stars my dear friends Gina Chiarelli (Grace) and Paul McGillion (Dominic) from See Grace Fly. It is a little history, and the remarkable madness of What’s Going Down and has been going down, this century.

As crazy as it sounds, the ‘clown’ being in the left hand corner on the selected picture below was purely coincidental. Youtube picks from the song three possible frames in total (there are 30 frames every second). This is one of the three. What else could I do?

Don’t get too depressed. Your voice continues on. Love will always continue on. We might even be eternal. And I was just experimenting with video and sound and graphics.

Lots of love,

Pete

A little more on the indefatigable Ralph Nader, and how the only thing more important than right now is the future

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Continuing on the Ralph Nader story—the remarkable Ralph Nader, I might add.

Never forget, also, that in 2000, Nader, with a legitimate ticket to simply watch, on a remote feed in a public auditorium!, the ‘presidential’ debate between Bush and Gore, was not allowed on the premises. Period.

Who stopped him? The private Commission on Presidential Debates. They were established by—who else?—the oh so different Republican and Democratic parties in 1987, and led by Big Business. This unelected commission decides who will be in the debates. By actions such as this—but not only this—the Commission has proved itself shameful, self-serving in the extreme, and a conscious deterrent to participatory democracy. In short, no surprise to anyone.

When I say Big Business, I hate to sound cliché. A little detail. One co-chairman of the Commission is Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., president and CEO of the always edifying and squeaky clean American Gaming Association which is the national trade association for the commercial casino industry. This is important, because calling a limited democracy a full democracy and getting away with it is always a gamble.

The other co-chair is Paul G. Kirk, currently a lobbyist for a German pharmaceutical company. Great. Vee have vays of making you not vote—not to mention over-drugging the world and calling that legal.

Isn’t it sort of shocking to know or be reminded of this kind of, dare I say, conspiring?

Further, the commission is or has been financed by Anheuser-Busch, Philip Morris (now Atria) and other multinational corporations who often pay deep respect and gratitude to Ralph Nader for his civic contributions.

I hope my sarcasm is clear.

As for Nader at the time, he was threatened with arrest and escorted off the premises of the debate by one man (on behalf of Presidential Commission on Debates) who was backed by three Massachusetts State troopers. In short, a private institution, saying who will debate, and telling tax-paid State troopers what to do—and they did as they were told.

You try this with a State trooper one day, and see what happens.

The danger of this should be obvious to anyone. It’s remarkable. This is in America—actually, the ‘surprise’ in that statement has grown beyond weary.

For the record, Pat Buchanan would have received the same treatment, had he shown up. But Fat Corporate Cats or their henchmen of some sort ordered this refusal of entry, and it was enacted.

In sum, Nader was already refused participation on the actual stage for the debate. Why? He wasn’t considered a factor. He was not a legitimate contender. Suddenly he couldn’t even watch it.

And people criticize him for running against the Democrats? Where was Gore at this moment? He should have been outraged.

Political Analyst Lawrence O’Donnell, in An Unreasonable Man, put it this way:

But if what we’re picking is a poll number [percentage, as to whether Nader would be allowed in the Bush-Gore debate] then what we’re in effect saying is, ‘Well, we’ll allow you in the debates if we think you’re a factor in the election.’

And so, in an election, in which now, the Gore world wants to say, ‘Ralph Nader lost the election for us’—I guess he must have been a factor in the election. But you [Gore!] said he couldn’t be in the debates because he wasn’t a factor in the election.

Phil Donahue, of all folks, put that Democratic sour grapes to the true test—action—and their shameful yet predictable failure says it all:

They killed [Nader] for saying that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties [Democratic and Republican]. And then the Democrats spent the next four years proving that he was right. The Democrats folded on the war. They folded on health care and No Child Left Behind. They hid under their desks.

Alan Mass put it this way:

“If only they [one of the most shameful, for me, is the Nation columnist Eric Alterman] managed a tenth of this kind of venom when talking about Republicans. But instead, their sanctimonious and humorless diatribes are directed at the man responsible for seatbelts and airbags in cars, anti-pollution laws, any number of workplace safety regulations—and the most significant left-wing electoral challenge to the two-party political system in a half-century.”

When asked, on Democracy Now, why Nader would run in 2008, he replied:

One feels an obligation…to try to open the doorways; to try to get better ballot access; to respect dissent in America and the terms of third parties and independent candidates; to recognize historically the great issues have come in our history, against slavery, women rights to vote, and worker and farmer progressives, through little parties that never won any national election. Dissent is the mother of ascent. And in that context, I have decided to run for president.

When that’s wrong—and it will never be wrong—there isn’t anything more to say. The fight’s over. Thank god for fighters.

Lots of love to you, and lots of acting on your conscience, listening to your soul, and demanding more from those who are entrusted with your hopes, or beliefs, via the vote. And speaking of those folks, be careful…

Pete