The Interpreter misinterpreted


Itai Mushekwe

GOVERNMENT’S claim that Universal Pictures political thriller, The Interpreter, allegedly backed by the CIA starring academy award winner Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn is an

American propaganda effort to further vilify Harare is baseless according to visiting American filmmaker, Charles Burnett.


Burnett jetted into the country last week to conduct master classes on film directing for a group of experienced and aspiring Zimbabwean filmmakers at the Zimbabwe International Film Festival Trust. He said that the Sydney Pollack-directed movie had been grossly misrepresented.


“Hollywood uses whatever it can to market its films. I think the government claims are far-fetched and are a means to divert people’s attention from real issues. Any country can say it’s about them. The description of the film can fit the character of hundreds of world leaders,” Burnett said.


Burnett, who has just finished his latest feature film, Nujoma: Where Others Wavered – whose synopsis is based on the autobiography of Sam Nujoma, Namibia’s first president, proceeded to point out that most Hollywood films, ironically portray the CIA, FBI and police in unflattering light citing the Bourne Identity sequel as an example.


“The CIA have been targeted themselves by Hollywood. Here is an industry that produces films that sell with a sole purpose of making money,” he said. Burnett also asserted that most Hollywood writers are liberal and against President George Bush.


“If anyone is to get angry, it has to be Bush himself because most political motion pictures produced hit at him directly. Look at the damage he suffered from Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine which was released prior to the 2004 presidential election,” said Burnett. He expressed concern over films being used for cheap political mileage and propaganda, which he said, has no universal qualities served by art because it is programmed and single-minded. Unlike a situation whereby film is used to bring about social change, such as fighting racism, segregation and empowering people.


A local movie critic who declined to be named argued that it was not the mandate of the US government to censor films for political content, sexuality, violence and language. Instead a private body known as the Motion Picture Association for America deals with such matters.


“What I find incredible is how the state media creates a conspiracy, generates that conspiracy and has the government creating an absurd situation. This government is deviating from pressing issues especially food security and economic growth. Instead they find time to critique a movie. This clearly shows that they’re fighting imaginary battles,” he said.


The Interpreter, which is to some extent an echo of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, gives an account of an imaginary embattled African President of a state called Matobo. The President, Edmond Zuwane, a teacher by profession has been at the helm of political power for 23 years. He sets out to make a final and desperate appearance at the UN General Assembly to exonerate himself from alleged crimes against humanity, to evade being hauled before the International Criminal Court. Zuwane’s country is under increasing international isolation, thereby making it a pariah state.


The thriller premiered this April at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, is the first of its kind ever allowed to shoot inside United Nations headquarters.

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