Greenwald's Topical Iraq Doc, "Uncovered," Develops Audience Online
by Brian Brooks
"Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War" by Hollywood producer and director Robert Greenwald is certain to stir conservative media watchers eager to pounce on an allegedly liberal entertainment industry. The controversial doc, which runs under 60 minutes, is a scathing indictment of the Bush Administration's Iraq policy. In the film, Greenwald speaks with more than 20 experts including figures from the intelligence community, scientists, weapons inspectors, and diplomats who argue that the White House, through what the film calls "lies, misstatements and exaggerations," deliberately misled the public, Congress, and the nation's allies about the need for a preemptive war in Iraq.
Admittedly no fan of the president, Greenwald also chose Bush as the subject of another film last year. He executive produced the disturbing "Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election," by Richard Ray Perez and Joan Sekler, which examines the debacle that took place in Florida following the last presidential election. His other film credits include the 2000 biopic "Steal This Movie" on '60s counter-culture guru Abbie Hoffman, and 1980's "Xanadu" along with dozens of producer credits for television dating back to the mid '70s. Greenwald's latest foray into making political filmmaking, though, came after meeting relatives of those serving in Iraq and after reading an article last spring on the subject of the elusive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq used as a prime White House justification for the invasion.
"I was profoundly moved after speaking with the relatives [of Iraqi soldiers]," Greenwald told indieWIRE during a phone interview from his office in Los Angeles last week. "I was profoundly moved by their stories on the one hand [and] also by an article I read in the paper in either May or June." Greenwald went on to say that the article quoted an administration official who referred to the WMD search as a hunt for weapons of mass destruction "programs," thereby sneaking in a subtle terminology change to deflect mounting criticism that the U.S. had yet to find any hard nuclear or chemical weapons. "The 'switch' [in using the word 'programs'] was the impetus," Greenwald said.
Later, he, along with his colleagues, worked to assemble the group interviewed in the film. The list includes former diplomat Joe Wilson, who served at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad; Scott Ritter, who was the top inspector in Iraq through 1998; David Albright, a physicist, nuclear weapons Expert, and former weapons inspector; anti-terrorism expert Rand Beer, who served three times on the National Security Council staff and was deputy security advisor to the supreme allied commander in Europe as well as the Rt. honorable Clare Short, who resigned her senior post in the Tony Blair government in Britain because of Iraq.
Greenwald offered praise for the group in their unusual candidness: "To their credit, many of these people spoke with nothing to gain, but a lot to lose. [They] came out as true patriots [willing] to speak out." "Uncovered" recently screened in New York at an event hosted by liberal think tank Center for American Progress. According to a November 6 New York Times article written by Randy Kennedy, the 100 or so people who attended the screening at the TriBeCa Grand Hotel included an eclectic mix such as actress/activist Janeane Garofalo, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV (who resigned after accusing the White House of manipulating intelligence and who has accused the administration of illegally revealing the identity of his wife, Valerie Palme as a CIA officer in revenge), musician Moby, and former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta (head of the Center for American Progress). Website MoveOn.org is among the other sponsors of the project.
The film has also screened in New York at an event hosted by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, as well as at an event in Los Angeles last week. There is also an upcoming screening planned at Harvard University. Podesta, whom Greenwald had met only once years back, in fact helped finance the filmthrough his organization. "I met [Podesta] only once and he was incredibly responsive. He helped me to continue the project," Greenwald recalled.
The project itself served as a sort of renaissance for Greenwald, he said, reconfirming in his mind the power of film as a medium. "Doing this documentary and 'Unprecedented' as well as others that have had social themes to them has reinvigorated my faith in the ability of film." Continuing to discuss the film's impact so far, he said, "The number of people who've reached out to me to get 'Uncovered' [made] has been extraordinary. It's made me more passionate [and made] me think of film as a great communicator."
For an entertainment veteran no doubt well versed in the marketing machine of Hollywood, Greenwald is using rather unconventional methods to show "Uncovered." For now at least, the film is available for sale via the Internet at truthuncovered.com as well as at screenings events. Greenwald and company have teamed up with The Nation, Working Assets, and a number of other groups to market the film to the intended audience. And, according to Greenwald, response has been very strong. "[The Internet] is an exceptional form of distribution," he commented.