November 4, 2007
Hollywood CA (UNS) -- At a news conference today a group of activist filmmakers unveiled a plan to use cutting-edge technology to eventually rid all Hollywood films of nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South.
"The campaign of intimidation sweeping the nation involving the use of nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South, means denial of the racism inherent in our society is no longer an option. We believe Hollywood needs to be in the forefront on this issue. Doing nothing constitutes the violation of the civil rights of each and every African American, as well as other traditional targets of terror and oppression. It is time for the battle against racism, homophobia and sexism to join technology in the Twenty-First Century." Saveermis Andrist, president of the organization behind the effort, Filmmakers Against Racism and Sexism in Entertainment (FARSE), said in a prepared statement. Ms. Andrist is a screenwriter/director/novelist/performance and recording artist.
A video presentation demonstrating some of the possibilities included scenes featuring nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow South, alternately transformed into a wreath of lillies, a thick gold chain, and a Hawaiian lei. The presentation had to be cut short due to technical difficulties.
"Film is all about the suspension of disbelief." Ms. Andrist said in reply to observations that some of the effects were incongruous or unrealistic. "We're merely asking people to suspend their disbelief a little further, for a good cause. In fact audiences will be able to rediscover these films all over again, as striking examples of a potential future, free of hate and intolerance. But more importantly, future generations will not be exposed at all to them."
Ms. Andrist rejected that the project would constitute a violation of freedom of artistic expression.
"We cannot sacrifice tolerance to the myth of artistic freedom. Freedom of artistic expression does not mean freedom of artistic repression. Artists are no more free than common people to terrorize people of color and other oppressed groups. Freedom of speech does not include the right to shout fire in a crowded theatre, and these images constitute shouting fire in our homes, in our places of work, in hand-held devices, wherever they might appear. They continually shout hatred at people of color. They shout fire in our conscience."
She brushed aside skepticism about the legal barriers to altering what is still an untold number of films.
"Intellectual property rights can't be allowed to trump civil rights. The safety and well-being of the oppressed is nobody's property. We feel that existing civil rights and hate crimes laws already constitute a broad mandate to act. All that remains is to consolidate them through either court order or legislation specifically empowering us to use the process wherever these heinous images are found. This is no time for quibbling over legality. If we wait for the current wave of hate to pass, we will have missed a golden opportunity to end it once and for all. This is bigger than individual filmmakers or entities, and we shouldn't allow a right to terrorize and oppress masquerading as freedom of expression to curtail the true right of millions to live without fear."
When asked if this meant the banning or confiscation of original, unedited copies of films in various formats, she said she didn't anticipate it would come to that. "We feel that through entirely voluntary measures attrition will eventually eliminate the majority of these instruments of hate, requiring a minimum of legal enforcement."
She also said she anticipated this project would be the first phase in a broader effort, with the working title Hollywood United for Humanity's Advancement (HUHA), that would eventually rid cinema, television and video games of all symbols of racism, sexism and homophobia.
Asked if any of her own work might eventually be affected, Ms. Andrist explained that she hasn't yet produced any.