The third annual Liberty Film Festival opened Friday, November 10, with a minor galaxy of Hollywood conservatives in attendance. Comedy producer David Zucker and 24’s Joel Surnow began the festivities with an hilarious screening of a pilot that may actually become the right-wing alternative to The Daily Show. In this slick Oval Office skit, the deficit-size laughs attending President Rush Limbaugh were only topped at the entrance of Vice-President Ann Coulter. If the pilot is picked up, it would constitute a huge comedic counterattack in the media wars.
Following this opening, festival directors Jason Apuzzo and Govindini Murry noted that LFF was now sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center and that together they constitute “the premier conservative film and cultural organization in America.” Some weeks ago Apuzzo gave substance to that impressive description by distributing early copies of Cyrus Nowrasteh’s The Path to 9/11 to conservative talk radio hosts—a move that allowed them to preempt and counter leftist demands of ABC to pull or heavily edit the film. Bill Clinton’s Fox-News meltdown and Madeline Albright’s recent disappearing act are evidence for the success of Apuzzo’s strategy and for the impact achieved by films that are seen by millions of people.
In tribute to ABC’s refusal to crack under withering political pressure, the Liberty Film Festival presented a Freedom of Expression Award to the production team of The Path to 9/11—the honors being done by Frank Price, former Chairman of both Columbia and Universal Pictures. Nowrasteh, who was present to accept the award, noted in an interview with Human Events that, because of his work on The Path to 9/11 the Los Angeles Times had done hit pieces on him and that defamatory misinformation about him had even been disseminated on Wikipedia. The two-time Pen Award winner downplayed, however, possible threats to his life—which in view of his Iranian heritage and Muslim roots, can’t be taken lightly.
Opening night also saw the screening of the documentary that won the LFF award for best feature film—Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration. Co-produced by Kevin Knoblock and David Bossie (the same duo that collaborated on Celsius 41.11) this documentary approaches the border issue by focusing on, in Knoblock’s words, “interesting characters.” While the film covers aspects of the immigration debate one would never see on PBS, it doesn’t provide any easy answers. In interviews, both Bossie and director Knoblock concurred on that score.
Compared to Knoblock, Bossie is the new kid on the block. The former Watergate investigator and Congressional aide has a handful of documentaries under his belt, including another festival entry, ACLU: At War With America. As this title shows, Bossie isn’t afraid to deliver a very unnuanced conservative message. That approach shouldn’t change with his next subject—Hillary Clinton. Assisting in that effort will be the man who ranks as the Clintons’ most prominent nemesis—Dick Morris.
Also in attendance at the festival, which had over 3,500 admissions, was producer-director Pierre Rehov, whose From the River to the Sea won honors for best film under 60 minutes. This documentary focuses on Palestinian refugees whose obsession with a “right of return” has been exploited both by Arab governments and by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Rehov’s other festival film, Suicide Killers, provides chilling footage of “martyrs” in training and of the proud mothers of suicide bombers.
Rehov, a French-Algerian Jew, told Human Events he didn’t feel threatened while making these documentaries since he was viewed as French. He also offered the opinion that “love” (as distorted by a sexually repressive society) is the ultimate motivation for suicide bombers. Given this belief, most conservatives won’t be sorry to learn that Rehov describes himself as an “independent.” Nor will they be surprised by the slew of psychoanalytic explanations in his films.
The festival award for best film under 30 minutes went to Cynthia Graner’s The Manual, a story that devotes loving visual attention to military funeral rites and to the notification procedure for soldiers killed in action. Like another festival film, Rex Pratt’s Between Iraq & A Hard Place, this work focuses on the psychological vulnerabilities of men in uniform rather than on courage and dedication to noble ideals.
Another media luminary, Michael Medved, moderated a Sunday panel discussion on “Hollywood, Israel, and the Middle-East” that included Frank Price, David Zucker, and the Emmy award winning screewriter Robert Avrech. In a subsequent interview, Medved was eager to slam Pat Buchanan as “a disgrace”—in spite of the fact that he “personally like(s) Pat.” Medved also called Michael Savage a “phony,” citing as evidence the latter’s political contributions to now California Attorney-General elect, Jerry Brown. Neither Buchanan nor Savage attended the festival.