Special Report By Andrea Chase
CINECON 33 celebrated film in all its incarnations, but took on the darker side of film history, too, and even stirred up some controversy by honoring an unannounced guest.
The documentary, "Legacy of the Blacklist" provided an excellent overview of what the blacklist was about and its repercussions in the film community. It was followed the next morning by a panel discussion of people, such as actor John Randolph and writer Bobby Lees who were effectively shutout of Hollywood by the blacklist. They brought to life a time that, in retrospect, hardly seems possible. A time when acceptable personal politics was narrowly defined and falling outside that definition endangered careers and lives. They also led me to believe that it was their sense of humor that made it possible for them to survive those times, unlike, say John Garfield, who dropped dead of a heart attack when his politics were questioned. Mr. Randolph said that he got so tired of being asked if he was now or ever had been a member of the Communist Party, that he started answering by saying he wasn't allowed to tell. Funny AND gutsy.
The panel also served to publicize a new group at USC, The Committee for the First Amendment/Blacklist Project. If you're interested in more information about the project, or would like to get involved with it, write to the committee at
The Committee for the First Amendment/Blacklist Project 9538 Brighton Way Suite 332 Beverly Hills, CA 90210
This discussion of the blacklist, the forbidding of a livelihood to those whose political opinions rankle the status quo, made for an interesting contrast to the protest surrounding the surprise appearance by Leni Riefenstahl. As a rabid anti-fascist, I can't be described as sympathetic to Ms. Riefestahl's antics during World War II, when she was the official film apologist for the Third Reich, BUT pre-emptive censorship is wrong. Period. CINECON, which exists to promote film history not to promote a political agenda, was well within its rights to invite Leni. And context is important. CINECON didn't screen propaganda, such as "Triumph of the Will," but rather a survival melodrama set in the Alps.
I question, though, CINECON's decision to honor her with a life-achievement award. While Leni has achieved legendary status, is "honorable" is the word to describe it?
I chose not to attend the screening, though, in all honesty, if I'd known Leni herself was going to be there, I might have reconsidered. At 95, she won't have many more shots at trying to convince people that she didn't know what Hitler was up to. Her attempts to do so would have been interesting if infuriating. And I would have liked the chance to hiss when she was handed that life achievement award.
© 1997 • Andrea Chase • Air Date: 10/01/97
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