[Stauffer] On Mr. Moore and Making Us Talk

I saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" twice in the past few weeks—on opening night in San Antonio, and a second time at the UA Parkway Place in Flowood, during a screening that the Jackson Free Press sponsored with Crossroads Film Festival and The Collective. In the time between the two screenings, I'd read some of the responses to the movie, including many from the independent press. In fact, independent and alternative news outlets seemed to be treating the movie more critically than the mainstream press, which was, perhaps, more eager to move on to more important news … such as the release of "Spider-Man 2."

The second time I watched "F-9/11" with a detached eye. There is no question that Moore twists some facts into conspiracies, as you'll see in some of the stories we've got in this edition of the JFP. Moore grants himself considerable artistic license in his caricature of George W. Bush. In that sense, the film is basically an editorial cartoon set to music—Moore wants to lambaste the current administration and make you laugh and cry while he does it and, in my experience, he's able to do just that. (Particularly the scene where he uses the song "The Greatest American Hero" for Bush's "Mission Accomplished" photo-op. Priceless.)

But whatever Moore stretches about the statistics or his conspiratorial presentation of the Bush family's connections to Saudi Arabia, I can also see why Moore got the top award at the Cannes Film Festival. It's because, on some visceral level, Moore is able to express the uneasy emotions that so many of us feel about the Bush administration and its prosecution of the "war on terror." Watching it a second time, I saw how Moore played his editing bay as an instrument, bringing the audience up and down, taking you into the sometimes tragic lives of the soldiers and showing a side of all this that is absent from other media in this country. The quick cuts can lie, and the slippery slope of narrated statistics can stretch the truth, but the images are real.

As you'll see in this issue, "Fahrenheit 9/11" has generated a mixed bag of responses. It's also pushing the discussion, and, what's more, more movies are coming. See "Firing Up the Choir" and "Open Letter to Michael Moore" for some discussion of the week-after impact of the movie; see "Politics With Your Popcorn" for a discussion of some more political movies that are in the pipeline. (Er … so to speak.)

The most significant thing I can take away from the film is simply a sense that the Bush administration has allowed ideology to short-circuit critical thinking in too many instances, and, as a result, a lot of good people have been hurt or killed. As Moore points out, there are more than 5,000 wounded-in-action U.S. soldiers—lost legs, nerve damage, serious pain—on top of the 983 military deaths (at this writing) in the war effort.

Looking back on the history of the past few years—even if it is Michael Moore's exclusive version of that history—I wonder if it absolutely had to be this way. One thing is for sure: We need to keep the discussion going, and that happens, in part, when we have—and take advantage of—a diversity of voices in the media and the arts.

Meanwhile, Back at the JFP
I was in sultry San Antonio to attend the annual Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) national conference that took place there. There's nothing like such a conference to help get the creative juices flowing. As a result, you'll see some fun new things in the Jackson Free Press over the next few weeks and into the fall as we continue to grow into our new weekly skin.

For one, you can bet we'll be sponsoring more independent films with the help of our partners, and having some great after-parties like the one at Que Sera last week! (If you love indy film, I encourage you to join Crossroads—www.crossroadsfilmfest.com—and get involved at the newly formed F601 film-project site—www.Fahrenheit601.com.) And thanks to Crossroads, Video Library, Flashback Video Café, New Vibrations and the Planetarium for donating prizes that we gave away at the "F9/11" after-party.

At the AAN conference we got good news at the awards luncheon—the JFP won two 2003 editorial awards from the national group, both of them awarded to our illustrious editor, Donna Ladd. The first was a third-place award in column writing for Donna's Editor's Notes; the other was a second-place award in the music criticism category for a piece Donna wrote after last year's Jubilee! Jam, "Mr. Dylan and Mr. Evers." When you see her around, please congratulate her.

Donna is also featured, along with Angela Lewis (the daughter of civil-rights hero James Chaney) in the July issue of Glamour magazine, currently on newsstands around town.

The JFP learned that it has been accepted as a full member of the Alternative Weekly Network, a network of newsweeklies that can be grouped for regional and national advertising opportunities. So … (warning, sales pitch coming) ... if you happen to have a product you'd like the folks in Atlanta or Denver or L.A. to know about, give us a call, and we'll plug you into the network! The JFP is the only member in the state of Mississippi.

Finally, the JFP family has grown this past month. We've added Lylee Dodson to our roster of account managers, which had already grown in May when Cordie Aziz joined our team to manage classifieds and Marketplace sales. We're also joined by Gabriel Price, who, at 8 lbs, 12 ounces, arrived as account manager Alisa Price's second child in late May. We're happy they're doing well, and we're pleased to have Alisa back in the office.

As always we thank you for reading. Please send us feedback either through the mail or online at jacksonfreepress.com, where the blogging has never been busier. Meanwhile … we'll see you at the movies!
Todd Stauffer is the publisher of the Jackson Free Press.


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