In a response to this email on the AMIA list, my friend at Kino, Jessica
Rosner (and I'm paraphrasing her, so please forgive me my inaccuracies of her
own beliefs) called this announcement crap and disgusting and suggested that
the AFI is prostituting itself. I include my response on the AMIA list as well
since I think this is an excellent topic of discussion on the politics of
commercialism versus the promotion of knowledge. Of course, as a distributor
on the outside, I find it very disturbing in what the AFI 100 means. So here
I usually find Jessica Rosner is more "passionate" than I about current
issues. It comes from her radical school days. All I can say is
"Go get them! Go, Girl, Go!!!"
In retrospect, however, saying that AFI is prostituting themselves is
inaccurate. Perhaps on consideration, Jessica would agree that the poor films
have found themselves to be the prostitutes, the studios are the Johns paying
for the service, and AFI is more accurately, the pimp. What CBS is would
almost a theological question which I can forgo.
The AFI 100 movie list is a commercially PAID (supposedly $5,000 to $15,000
per film from what I hear) endorsement of studio films to promote their video
sales. Of the 400 films, I roughly count nine films that are public domain or
independently owned. The AFI is representing Hollywood's interests, not the
public. I don't worry about what the online public votes for (it's kind of
fun) or who will be "the 100." I question how the films were chosen and for
what purpose. It definitely brings to question AFI's motive, their self-
acclaimed role as champion of American film, and more importantly and far more
seriously, their non-profit status. I would compare this to a similar case
this year with the AMA and "approved" products in terms of ethics.
A much smaller concern, but still it exists. I'd like to question how the
voters were picked? And just what percentage among the "industry" was chosen?
From their own press release:
<<The American Film Institute (AFI), in conjunction with an unprecedented
coalition of the home video divisions of 13 film studios, today
announced an extraordinary multi-million dollar video promotion to
support its historic 100 Years...100 Movies celebration. This is the
first time in the history of the home video industry that the major
studios have joined together for a joint marketing effort.>>
In other words, only the rich get to join.
<<The videos will be released for sale and rental in stores immediately
following the June 16 CBS broadcast.>>
What if one of the public domain films wins? Anyone distributing The Birth of
a Nation is not a bootlegger. They are a legitimate distributor with just as
much right to distribute this film as Universal does Vertigo. It shouldn't
even matter the quality of transfer since the film is owned by the public and
the AFI is a public-supported entity. By the way, this is from a distributor
whose claim to Poor Little Rich Girl is a good as anybody's considering our
license from the Mary Pickford Foundation.
It's hard enough to fight the blockbuster mentality of the American public,
but to have the AFI champion it is, in Jessica's words, disgusting. As an
independent distributor who is devoted to bring out the unique and the
special, it's just another nail in the coffin in any attempt to educate a
growingly uninterested public. This, by the way, IS representative of
Milestone's feelings and beliefs.
Milestone Film & Video
PS. Who did choose the 400? If it wasn't fixed, I suspect a poll was done at a
shopping mall in Encino.
PSS. Richard III? Oy!
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama.