These past two weeks the entire world has been front and center on news surrounding the United States’ National Security Agency and a “whistleblower/traitor” that is now “residing” in Hong Kong. Whatever your opinion is on this matter one thing is certain—someone has pitched a story to a producer, a script is being written and a film will go into production by the end of this year.
In Justice Is Mind one of the tracks in the story is loss of privacy. Our primary character, Henri Miller, makes an elected choice to give up privacy with that decision secured by biometric signatures. Miller’s information is digitized, sent electronically to a foreign company and held in a central library of like “minded” information. Trapped by his own memories, he soon finds himself on trial. But in an age of social media and immediate news gathering, while the law may say “innocent until proven guilty”, let us not kid ourselves. Despite the democracies that we live in anyone charged is guilty first and only innocent after the public says so.
When it comes to marketing Justice Is Mind, I have been working closely with my entertainment attorney Arnold Peter. Sure, we are submitting to targeted film festivals and making presentations to sales agencies and distributors, but the major push for the film will be in the very democracies that have allowed us, the citizen, to sign away our rights of privacy by our own choice. Speaking of choices, I’d love to have Justice screen in Tehran (that probably just got me on a list).
One country that we will be having a presence in is India—the world’s largest democracy. This would not be my first foray into that country. My first short film First World was the only science fiction film to screen at India’s first national discussion on science fiction. It was an honor and a distinction that I will never forget. Presenting Justice Is Mind in India is just as important as the United States as the whole point is to establish discussion around key areas of the film—where does privacy start and stop?
In the digitized and social media world we live in the loss of privacy in the general sense must just be accepted. One of my favorite films, Gattaca, sequences DNA and decides your societal fate. In Justice Is Mind your memories decide your legal fate. Make no mistake, these sciences are largely here in the year 2013. Maybe not as developed as the films they are represented in, but like Star Trek literally invented the cell phone, fiction will be fact soon enough. Get used to it or live in a cave.
When it comes to writing, production and directing a film you want your audience to leave thinking. That’s how a film establishes a long shelf life. That’s how a film finds audiences long after its world premiere. That’s why films like Judgment at Nuremberg, 2001 and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner still resonate today. They had something to say and weren’t afraid to say it. Justice Is Mind is not politically correct. It is designed to elicit conversation and to remind us that our life is largely dictated by the choices we make. And in the case of Justice the choices of…sorry you’ll have to wait until the film is released for the end of that sentence.
Thankfully our democracies still give us the right of choice. And like those that we elect to office to represent us in our respective governments, we want our films to also win in the court of public opinion. Because it really comes down to three words–
WE THE PEOPLE.
I remember where I was in March 2003 when the United States and United Kingdom declared war on Iraq and the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein – Washington, DC. At the time I was publisher of International Figure Skating magazine and was attending the World Figure Skating Championships. I was also promoting my first book Frozen Assets. When one media opportunity after another was cancelled and news of war filled the airwaves, our world was changing – again.
To be sure, since September 11, 2001, America was living in a paranoid state. Our once genteel existence, long protected by two massive oceans, was compromised. Our feeling of “homeland” security shattered. Nobody attacks the United States of America and we were going to do whatever it took to regain our stature. Indeed, we had that right. America saved this world on no less than three occasions with World War I, World War II and The Cold War. As the last remaining superpower on this planet we were not going to be defeated by a handful of terrorists be they domestic or international.
But with great power, comes great responsibility. And while most Americans wanted to restore pride, there were those in power that rode this wave of paranoia to a state that nearly destroyed the ideals this country was founded on and was fighting for on the other side of the world – democracy. A dictator long past once said “The art of leadership… consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention.” Left unchecked, history has a terrifying way of repeating itself. Thankfully, we elect our Presidents for a maximum of eight years.
There’s no question that Iraq had to be handled. Hussein had to be removed from power. The no fly zone established after the Gulf War made sense at the time, but was nothing more than a band aid on a greater problem in the region. Iraq was a pressure cooker and was going to implode at some point anyway. As we have seen this past year across the Middle East, revolutions are toppling backward regimes with nascent democracies coming to fruition. In time, the same probably would have happened to Iraq.
There is a certain irony about a country not even two hundred and fifty years old, seeking to bring democracy to a country and a region that is known as the Cradle of Civilization with its origins dating to the 6th millennium BC.
Iraq occupies a significant amount of land referred to in ancient times as Mesopotamia. Sumerian, the earliest written language was founded in this region, along with advances in mathematics and astronomy. For it was the Babylonians that first observed the motions of the planet Venus in the 2nd millennium BC. Yet, four thousand years later, the United States Mariner 2 was the first space probe to reach that planet.
Although the Iraq Museum and several ancient sites were badly looted during the war, with the United States taking some heavy criticism on their failure to protect the treasures of this ancient land, I have to hope that someone somewhere postulated that there is a global responsibility to protect and restore this region.
In this modern world, all sovereign nations have the right to govern themselves. This past week, with the United States formally ending the Iraq War, we turn a new leaf towards the future. As we thank our military for not only ridding this world of a dictator, but for bringing hope to a region that gave birth to civilization on this great planet, we know there is some frame of order to America’s actions over the last eight years with history being the final judge.
But to those Americans and Iraqis that perished in defense of freedom, they have not died in vain. Indeed, their heroic steps of yesterday mark giant leaps for mankind on this planet and beyond.