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Issue No. 18 - Humanity

TRUTH (2015) DIRECTED BY JAMES VANDERBILT

TRUTH (2015) DIRECTED BY JAMES VANDERBILT

Image above: © Sony Pictures Classics, 2015.

In this period of aggressive presidential campaigning, non-stop media coverage, ferocious jockeying for position, extreme partisanship, sharply-focused attention on candidates and their back stories, it is not surprising that there has been a feeding frenzy for the television networks and a commensurate amount of backlash against the press. As the line between information and entertainment continues to blur in the world of televised news, and corporate bottom lines often trump content we are in murky waters when it comes to what is disseminated.

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Image above: © Sony Pictures Classics, 2015.

When Dan Rather, who had worked for CBS for 44 years, 24 as anchor of CBS Evening News was unceremoniously let go, in a breach of contract, it was pretty shocking and details were unclear and unconvincing. The demise of this highly-respected veteran newsman, Dan Rather, a contributor to 60 Minutes, and a Pulitzer Prize winning producer, Mary Mapes, would appear to have been a case of expedient cowardice on the part of CBS to not stand behind their own team and allow them to make their case to the public. The story in question involved the National Guard details of George W. Bush, then-presidential candidate, which exempted him from the draft.

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Image above: © Sony Pictures Classics, 2015.

There was significant evidence that Bush had received preferential treatment to gain a place in the Texas Air National Guard, a unit for which he was arguably not qualified. Further investigation revealed that he was entirely missing for duty for at least a year and had not completed all of the requirements for duty. There were records which were obtained by operatives working for Mary Mapes, the producer of the story which corroborated this narrative. The film fleshes out the details of this entire episode from the gathering of the information and the subsequent efforts to discredit the source material. It is a tense procedural insiders look and has the feel of All the President’s Men.

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Image above: © Sony Pictures Classics, 2015.

Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchet) and Dan Rather (Robert Redford) were both on stage in the theatre the night I saw the film and gave their thoughts about the film. It is based on her book Truth and Duty: the Press, the President and the Privilege of Power. Dan Rather’s comments stuck in my mind. He wanted us, the audience, to just consider what this means about the quality of journalism and what is being lost today by having such a blatant influence of vested interests over those attempting to tell the truth.

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© Sony Pictures Classics, 2015.

That Rather never deserted Mapes gives the film credibility and they are well-played by Blanchet and Redford. The scene with the CBS bigwigs interrogating Mapes reminded me of the Hilary/Benghazi hearing. It was chilling. The fact that the source material could not be absolutely authenticated leaves one with the uncomfortable feeling that maybe there was reason to doubt. It also makes Rather’s point and Mape’s mantra hit home: “Never stop asking”. I thought it was a story well-told, well-paced, well-acted, provocative and absorbing.

-Belle McIntyre

Suzanna Heintz at JoANNE ARTMAN GALLERY

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew