To go by an e-mailed statement received a couple of hours ago, I think I understand the gist of Jeff “the Dude” Dowd‘s objection to the negative feelings about Dirt! The Movie expressed by John “knuckle sandwich” Anderson .
Dowd is basically saying that in the case of documentaries exploring the ruination of the planet and what can be done about this, film critics should get with the new spirit of the nation under Barack Obama and double-track their reviews.
In short, don’t just say if the film is well-made or not, but also give credit where due if the film is providing important and constructive information.
“Rather than precluding their opinions about anything they find negative in the film’s construction or execution,” Dowd says, “they [should] at least support any enlightening ideas and solutions.”
In other words, in the same way that the modern art trends in painting were “called off” during the government-sponsored WPA period of the 1930s, Dowd believes that film critics should, in the case of well-meaning docs looking to help turn things around for the planet, include a kind of WPA attitude in their analysis and criticism.
“My disagreement with John Anderson was not over his critical reaction to Dirt!, which he has every right to and which I find enlightening, but his statement that the film wouldn’t appeal to the public.
“I suggested he come back into the theater for the q & a and he would observe what we had seen at all four screenings — that audiences felt the film had all kinds of new information and practical solutions. It wasn’t homework, but hope made pragmatic on how we can change the planet in keeping with Obama’s Inauguration speech.
“I told Anderson one of scores of examples of this was when John Densmore of The Doors stood up at our first screening (after a sustained audience applause at the end) and said ‘I have my own film here–which I clearly care about–but here is my ballot which I marked 4 stars because Dirt! is the film that should win the Sundance Festival.’ That was emblematic of all the great feedback. I just asked Anderson to put that in the mix before making assumptions that audiences would respond negatively.”
“It should also be said that a vast majority of audience members liked the film not just because they ‘support the cause.’ We have heard dozens of comments about the quality of the filmmaking and storytelling as well. In the spirit of John Waters we even had smell-o-vision at one screening where you could smell the sweet earthy scent of dirt and mother earth.”
“Film criticism is fine but ill-informed assumptions are not what is best for the planet and not in the spirit of the dialogue that goes on at Sundance. He simply didn’t do a reporter’s homework and listen to audience members, before saying, ‘People will not respond to this film.” How can Anderson say those who responded so favorably are ‘just sheep‘, when most of the audience excitedly remained to discuss, and were clearly moved and inspired? I know that by the shank of the fest, critics are justifiably burnt-out, nonetheless he simply didn’t allow himself to see the reality here.
“We are at a historic time when information and dialogue are the life-blood of democracy and are essential to the future of the planet. In such a time informative and hopeful movies like Dirt! The Movie deserve discussion, not the simple dismissal John was unfortunately giving it.”