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Liberty Film Festival By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 06, 2006

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Jason Apuzzo, a writer/director living in Los Angeles. He is the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the Liberty Film Festival, Hollywood’s first conservative film festival, which is scheduled for November 10-12. He also writes and edits LIBERTAS, the influential online magazine for conservative thought on film, which receives over 3 million hits per month. He has appeared on CNN, Fox News and numerous national talk radio shows to discuss film, and has worked as a columnist for Newsmax and Townhall.com. He graduated from the USC Cinema School in 2001 with an MFA in Production. Prior to USC, Jason received his Ph.D. in Germanic Literature from Stanford University, and a BA in Philosophy from Yale University.

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FP: Jason Apuzzo, welcome to Frontpage Interview.


Apuzzo: Happy to be here.


FP: The Liberty Film Festival is coming up (Nov. 10-12). Tell us about it. What are some of the major themes that will be covered?

This year's festival covers more issues with more films - 28 overall - than we've had in previous festivals. We'll be featuring films on Islamic terrorism, the Iraq War, 9/11, illegal immigration, the ACLU, supporting the military in the War on Terror, and the need to defend democratic societies like America and Israel


A lot of the issues that are defining this year's election - and will continue to define elections in '08 - are covered in these films. We'll be showing Pierre Rehov's "Suicide Killers" and "From the River to the Sea" that both deal with the origins of Islamic terrorism in the repression of Islamic societies. We'll be showing "Border War," an intense and sophisticated documentary about illegal immigration. We're showing a lot of exciting short films like "The Road to Ramadi" and "A Journey to Iraq" from new filmmakers, and full-length narrative features like "The 9/11 Commission Report" that deals with Clinton's failure to get bin Laden.

When we did our first Liberty Film Festival in 2004, a lot of the films were simply responses to what Michael Moore had done. By 2006 conservatives are now really charting their own course and defining their own issues through film.  It's very encouraging, and shows that the conservative film movement is maturing.  We received more films this year than ever before, and several films were made specifically because the filmmakers knew they had the Liberty Film Festival as an outlet for their work.

The Left must be foaming at the mouth and gnashing at the teeth over the Liberty Film Festival. Tell us some of the opposition and attacks you have received.


Apuzzo: I'll give you some examples. On opening night of last year's festival, three protesters rushed the stage to attack David Horowitz - who was actually speaking about the lack of free speech on college campuses.  The protesters rushed the stage shouting, "Fascists have no right to free speech!" I had the special pleasure of dragging them off stage and into the lobby.  It was pretty wild, and I'm not sure the protesters were aware of the acute irony of what they were doing.  The other funny thing was that these guys actually were there for free, because they were members of a local left-wing press organization and we'd been nice enough to give them press passes. That's the media for you.

In any case, we have much better festival security this year.

Another example comes from just a few months ago. The Liberty Film Festival was heavily involved in promoting ABC's "The Path to 9/11," in part because "Path"'s writer-producer Cyrus Nowrasteh is a friend of ours who spoke at last year's festival.  Govindini Murty, who is  Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the Liberty Film Festival, wrote the first published review of "Path to 9/11" and helped behind the scenes to organize conservative media support for the show. She also put Cyrus in contact with Buzz Patterson, who was vital in publicly verifying details depicted in the film.

For our efforts, we were attacked on The Huffington Post and in The Nation magazine by Max Blumenthal, who called us "political terrorists."  It just so happens, of course, that Max's father is Clinton lawyer Sidney Blumenthal.  I'm sure that was a coincidence.  

In any case, Blumenthal accused Govindini and me of being part of a vast, right-wing conspiracy to take over ABC.  I believe he called us 'the network within the network,' which must be news to Disney's Robert Iger.


FP: There is a new conservative film movement and the digital revolution is opening up filmmaking to conservatives. Crystallize this phenomenon for us and how it will impact Hollywood.

Apuzzo: Filmmaking is cheaper now than ever before, and low-cost distribution options like DVD and the internet are making it easier for filmmakers to get their work seen.  The impact this is having is tremendous - because suddenly filmmakers don't need to rely on the studios.  They can make and market their films independently for under $1 million - and not put up with the ridiculous ideological restrictions imposed by the Hollywood system.

We've had low-cost films in our festival like "Cochise County, USA," made for under twenty thousand dollars, that deals with a controversial subject like illegal immigration.  The film subsequently appeared in The Wall Street Journal and on The O'Reilly Factor and then sold over 60,000 DVDs.  Or another film, "Obsession: Radical Islam's War on the West" that was made for just a few hundred thousand dollars, that after premiering in our festival ended up on The Rush Limbaugh Show and CNN - and again sold extremely well on DVD.  So now Fox News is going to air "Obsession" this Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 4th and 5th.  They're clearing their schedule to air it right before the elections - and this is a film that had its world premiere at The Liberty Film Festival just last year.

So the economics of filmmaking are changing, and making it possible for independent conservative filmmakers to make profitable and very impactful films.  It's an exciting time to be doing the Liberty Film Festival.

FP: Can you share a bit of your own intellectual journey with us? Are you a conservative? Were you ever on the Left? Tell us what influenced you to become who you are and led you to do what you do.

Apuzzo: Normally you would say I'm a 'conservative,' although that doesn't seem to capture my daily activities. There's really nothing 'conservative' about being a conservative in Hollywood. You end up being a subversive radical, whether you like it or not.

I was never a leftist, but there's no question that I've undergone a strong transformation.  When I was little all I wanted to do was make fantasy films like "Star Wars" or "Clash of the Titans" or something like that. I had a strong interest in myth, which is what drew me to study Germanic literature. I wrote my Ph.D. thesis at Stanford, for example, on Thomas Mann's Joseph-novels, in which Mann re-told the Biblical story of Joseph and his brothers. Those novels were Thomas Mann's form of protest against the Nazi regime, and I suppose I've adopted my own attitude of protest now as a filmmaker.  I'm strongly opposed to totalitarian systems of any kind, and I'm also opposed to the Hollywood system that apologizes for totalitarian regimes around the world.

Right as we're doing this interview, for example, Steven Soderbergh has announced in Variety that he'll be directing not one but two movies about Che Guevara.  This kind of thing is typical.  Look at "V For Vendetta" that came out last year from Warner Brothers.  That film romanticized terrorism like no film I've seen before or since.

So I would say that Hollywood radicalized me. I graduated from USC Cinema School with my MFA just three months after 9/11. I hadn't really intended to become a 'political' filmmaker - but after 9/11 it became clear to me that filmmakers simply couldn't sit idly by.  Nor could they wait for the Hollywood system to respond, because I knew Hollywood would eventually get around to undermining the war effort.  And that's exactly what's happened.


FP: What can individuals do to help make Hollywood a place that isn’t a leftist echo chamber?

Apuzzo: They can do two things: first, invest in conservative filmmakers.  Something the movement is suffering from right now is a lack of money.  A lot of conservatives don't seem to understand that film is a much more powerful and influential medium than talk radio, columns, blogging and cable news combined.  Look at what happened, for example, after both "The Path to 9/11" and David Zucker's recent North Korea commercial came out - Madeleine Albright has completely disappeared from public life.  Just two films, and Albright - who was the architect of so many foreign policy failures in the 1990's - can't even show her face in public anymore. No column or talk radio show was able to do this, but a few films were. But filmmaking is expensive, and conservatives should invest in new projects. Liberals invest in film, and derive tremendous benefit from films and the celebrity culture they support.  But conservatives for some reason haven't wanted to do this.  With the advent of the digital revolution, this attitude must change.

The second thing individuals can do, frankly, is support the Liberty Film Festival - which presently is the only proven forum in which conservative films can attract attention.  Last year's Liberty Film Festival Best Feature Film award-winner, "Obsession," is being shown five times this weekend on Fox News - right before the election. The film is that important, but nobody knew about it until we discovered it.  This kind of thing can happen all the time, but we need the public's support.  Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival has a billionaire like George Soros supporting it with millions of dollars; we have no such billionaires supporting us.

FP: Jason Apuzzo, thank you for joining us, good luck on the Liberty Film Festival, and keep up the good fight.

Apuzzo: Many thanks.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.

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