Denver Post, November 24, 1985
Nellhaus' article is unforgivable
By Will Roberts
As the filmmaker who produced and directed the film "American Rebel" (the Dean Reed story), I was somewhat amused by the media attacks on the film by the likes of Peter Boyles and Bob Denerstein during the premiere of the film at the recent Denver Film Festival. I had been warned that there would be attacks on me and the film merely because of its subjects and locations.
Howeve, I must respond to the recent article by Arlynn Nellhaus in The Denver Post (Lively Arts, Nov. 3), in which she called the Denver audience a bunch of cows and gullible, naive patsies. It is one thing to insult a filmmaker or work of art but quit another to attack an audience because they liked a film.
A lazy reviewer can always talk about what a film or a play or a book does not do, and the jaded aspect of American journalism in general thinks that to be insulting is "cute" or to be negatively critical is to be clever. America media tend to suffer from self-congratulatory ethnocentrism and the Nellhauses, Denersteins and Boyleses seem to profit from their smug little articles and arts reviews and insults.
Those of us who work professionally in the creative arts generally follow the rule that one should never defend one's work, no matter how cheap the shots that are fired at us, so I've been ignoring the critical blabbering. But when a critic begins to attack the audience, I find this unforgivable.
If there are cows in Denver, I suggest that they are bulls with blinders on who think they are cosmopolitan art critics when in truth they haven't grazed beyond their own pastures. What frightens me is that these people seem to feel that they are leading the herd.
Dean Reed is a superstar; he is also a socialist an an atheist. I am none of these. I am a documentary filmmaker who tried to allow Dean's story to be told and let him present his views in the hope that this would further understanding among cultures and thereby work toward world peace. The audience seemed to understand this. I felt that they saw the jokes, heard the 34 songs, and were able to travel to Moscow, Siberia, Nicaragua, Chile, Helsinki, East Germany and other places and perhaps gain a slightly different perspective of the world scene as experienced by an American whose views are different from their own. The critics would have me attack Dean's views and discuss Afghanistan, Poland, Sakharov and all the Anit-Soviet issues, which was not what this film was about.
It was no accident that I attempted to say something positive about Dean Reed and the socialist culture. There is enough negative press coverage about the socialist culture and people that I felt no need to continue this tired attack. Someday this type of media will be viewed in the same way that the anti-black, anti-Jew, anti-gay and similar racist, sexist, ageist writers of yesterday are now viewed. Had I made a film defending the perspective of anyone who was black or gay or Jewish, the liberal press would have praised the perspective. To present an American who has become a socialist and defends those principles and the society he has joined would seem to be a treasonalble offense, according to the Denver critics. This merely confirms to me that "American Rebel" is "art." I thant them for their outrage and take it as a compliment.
I would rate the Denver Film Festival as one of the best in the world. The organization and intent of the staff and sponsors are excellent. I found the audiences who attended the films at the Tivoli to be most sophisticated.
However, I have read reviews and had ma film work reviewed in the United States and around the world. Seldom have I seen such shallow, ignorant reviewers, who are relatively undereducated, uniformed and full of lazy cliches, as are concentrated in the Denver area. They do disservice to quality writers and ever worse, in the case of Arlynn Nellhaus, are insulting to the audience they pretend to serve.-
Will Roberts has been a documentary filmmaker for 13 years. His films have won awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Film Festival, the Educational Film Library Association, the Council on International Non-Theatrical Events, the Information Film Producers of America and the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge.
|Ovations come cheap in Denver|