Guest Blogger Allen Mondell directed the documentary A Fair to Remember with his wife, Cynthia Salzman Mondell. Allen is currently touring the film in Lithuania as part of the American Documentary Showcase sponsored by the State Department. He will be blogging for Art&Seek about his experiences; here is his fifth report from the road:
As the baseball season winds down for the Texas Rangers, I was thrown a couple curveballs today. The first one came during an interview at an all-news radio station in a rather austere 10-story building far from the charm of the Old Town of Vilnius but still part of the city.
Inside, the host of the talk show met us with the same warmth and politeness that have marked our brief encounters with others. In the studio were the show host, Bill Murphy (the other American who is part of the American Documentary Showcase tour), and our translator, Victoria.
His first question was innocent enough – about the kinds of films represented in the Showcase.
Then came the curve ball. “I was interviewing a Finnish film director several weeks ago who said that the American documentary was dead, not just once dead, but twice dead,” the host said dispassionately. Did we agree?
Where was the Finnish director when we needed him to answer to this sneaky defamation? Home in Finland, I imagine.
So we just reminded our host and the Lithuanians who might be listening that not only was I here to screen A Fair to Remember, but also to represent 29 other American filmmakers whose ‘dead’ documentary films were screening throughout Lithuania!
I also took the opportunity to say that docs are being made throughout America and aren’t only being shown on television or in the theaters. Documentary films are going into public and private schools, universities, junior colleges, libraries, other educational institutions, non-profit organizations, social service agencies, etc.
Let him put that in his pipe and smoke it. I didn’t actually say that. I just thought it.
He also asked why there were no films in the Showcase about Iraq or Afghanistan, implying that they were censored. We offered our own opinions, which I don’t need to go into here. We, Bill Murphy and I, did explain that these films were done by independent filmmakers making films that we wanted to make, whose content was not determined or dictated to by the United States government.
I’m making him sound like a conservative right wing American talk show host, which he wasn’t. He was a journalist asking some probing questions.
He didn’t ask much about Big Tex or Texas, but more about the American documentary, which was fine. Maybe I should have greeted him with a “Howdy, I’m not Big Tex, but I’d like to welcome me to Vilnius.” Or something like that.