Monday, March 25, 2013

Noam Chomsky: a good subject for an "interview film"

In downtown Minneapolis in 2002 and 2003, when on the way to “The Saloon” on Saturday nights, I sometimes stopped at a newsstand store on Hennepin called “Shinders”.  My last visit (in 2011) seemed to indicate that it had closed, but I recall it because there were beaucoup books and rags there by Noam Chomsky and his theories about 9/11.
At the West End Cinema in Washington recently, in a casual conversation about another film, a patron called Chomsky a “liberal gatekeeper”.
The film “Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in our Times” (2002), by John Junkerman, presents Chomsky in some interviews and speeches in front of college audiences.  (I dreamed last night that I was giving a speech, like my 1998 Hamline University speech).  Chomsky was 73 when these interviews were filmed, ten years ago.

Can “interviews alone” make for interesting documentary film?  Sometimes, if the subject is compelling enough.  (Consider Sony’s “Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary”, also in 2002).
Chomsky says some startling things.  He sees street crime as a metaphor for war, and says that at some level there is probably always some legitimacy to it in terms of unresolved social inequality.  (That reminds me of the People’s Party of New Jersey back in the early 1970s, that saw violence as legitimate and saw middle class professionals like me as part of the enemy.)  This is obviously a dangerous and frightening notion, but some people see it as a predecessor to revolution.

But the main thrust of his remarks is to see the United States as the world’s main terror state, so George W. Bush’s “War on terror” had to be meaningless. 
He also claims that Palestinian suicide bombing in Israel did not start until 2001, despite Israel’s occupation and expropriation of lands in the West Bank ever since 1967.
The film originated from Japan and has this site.  But it was filmed
in the Bronx (at Fordham) and apparently distributed by First Run Features.

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