Doc maverick Errol Morris recently scored a well overdue Oscar win for his latest film The Fog of War – an honor that produced the only politically charged speech of that high profile affair. Writer Jonathan Link talks to Morris about censorship, marketing and losing money.
After Fast, Cheap and Out of Control was overlooked even for a nomination in 1998, was it gratifying to finally win the Oscar?
‘First and foremost, the Academy Awards is a marketing tool. The effect of the Oscar is that more people will see the movie. It’s not a financial concern, but more audience that’s the goal. For Fog, this is an election year; it’s about history, but it’s more relevant. At the Oscars I said I was afraid we were going down another rabbit hole. I open the papers even today and I see evidence of the folly of our policies.’
Has the media become too tepid or even censored lately?
‘I believe that this idea of ‘balance’ often can emerge as a form of censorship. Who decides what is ‘balanced’? Is it a form of political correctness? Often the greatest journalism is one of advocacy. It eschews ‘balance’ for a point of view.
We live in a time when it’s important to be involved. From my point of view things are out of kilter – it’s not a great time to remain silent.’
Which doc-makers do you most admire?
‘Frederick Wiseman (Domestic Violence) and Chris Marker (Level Five).’
What advice would you give emerging doc-makers?
‘Think of some other means of employment. I’ve never earned a living off my films and I’ve done quite well – always a critical following. I’ve lost money on almost every film I’ve made. Commercial work puts me in a position where I can do that.’