On March 23, 2003, filmmaker Michael Moore earned cheers and jeers from Hollywood’s A-list with an Oscar speech that criticized U.S. President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. Standing behind him were the four other documentary feature nominees, whom Moore had invited onstage, explaining: ‘They are here in solidarity because we like non-fiction. We like non-fiction, because we live in fictitious times.’ The nominees weren’t given a chance to speak, however – until now. RealScreen reached them and asked what they might have said had they won the chance to give a speech at the 75th annual Academy Awards.
Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco, for Daughter from Danang
Daughter from Danang is a powerful reminder that wars don’t end when bombs stop dropping. It can take generations to heal the wounds of war. Wars don’t bring peace. Peace must prevail.
We want to thank two courageous women: Mai Thi Kim in Vietnam and the daughter from Danang, Heidi Bub, in the U.S., for the privilege of letting us tell their story. And we want to honor Jaime Kibben, our friend, colleague and sound recordist. Jaime was killed recently while working on an Israeli-Palestinian peace film. We know you’re up there listening on buzz-free celestial headphones! We also thank ‘American Experience’/ITVS/NAATA/Sundance Documentary Fund, and give kudos to the many who worked on the film.
Malcolm Clarke and Stuart Sender, for Prisoner of Paradise
Our film Prisoner of Paradise is the story of Kurt Gerron, a Jewish director who was sent to a concentration camp and ordered to make a pro-Nazi propaganda film. Gerron worked with the greats of early cinema: Marlene Dietrich, Peter Lorre, Josef von Sternberg. He loved making movies, and his obsession with work allowed him to shut out the world.
That obsession literally cost Gerron his life. He was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.
A well-known actor who saw Prisoner of Paradise told us that he recognized much of himself in Gerron’s focus on making movies at the exclusion of everything else; he felt that Gerron could be any one of us working in the film business today.
Creative people not only have the right to speak their conscience, they have a responsibility to do so. As Kurt Gerron’s story teaches us, silence and denial are simply not an option.
Jeffrey Blitz and Sean Welch, for Spellbound
(Wait for polite applause to die down; if Mr. Scorsese is still standing, let him finish his fist-pumping ‘You go, dog’ schtick and then begin…)
Every year people grumble about how a spelling bee documentary always wins this category, and it’s true. Our belief was that the Academy could not resist yet another spelling movie, and here we are tonight, basking in the glow of our cold calculation.
As you can see, we’ve invited some of our fellow nominees up on stage with us. No, they aren’t the other feature documentarians – where’s the glitz in that? Instead, Ms. Kidman, Mr. Brody, Mr. Nicholson and Ms. Streep are here to show support for a movie about words, because we live in an era of bad English. An era when the most powerful man in the world routinely says things like ‘They misunderestimated me’ and ‘This issue doesn’t resignate with me.’ Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. You make Dan Quayle look like James Joyce. (Over the expected booing of Hollywood’s finest, try to cram in special thanks to ThinkFilm, HBO/Cinemax Documentary Films and Noah Webster.)
Halle, I’ll see you at the Vanity Fair party! (If the orchestra has been cued, try to slip in the joke about the Pope and the Dixie Chicks at the National Spelling Bee and then exit, stage left, head held high…)
*Jacques Perrin, nominated for Winged Migration, declined to comment.
Incidentally, in a poll conducted by RealScreen that drew 141 responses, 48.94% of voters thought Moore’s speech was ‘excellent: right words, right place.’ But, 39.01% thought it was ‘ugly: I’m mortified he spoke for doc-makers as a group.’