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image Power and Terror
On producing
How the Project Began
Noam Chomsky's Response
Producer Yamagami’s initial letter to Chomsky

January 8, 2002

Dear Professor Noam Chomsky,

Please forgive me for writing to you suddenly, without introduction. I am a Japanese film producer, involved with producing mostly documentary films. I am writing you today because I would very much like to produce a documentary film centered on interviews with you. I know this request may come as an imposition, but I would ask that you read through my proposal and give it your consideration.

I have been moved to make this documentary film by reading your thoughts and analysis of the September 11 terrorist attack on New York and the subsequent United States military actions against Afghanistan. For me the biggest shock came not from the terrorist attack itself but from the action of American state power against Afghanistan and the response of the Japanese government, in blindly following in step and dispatching the military (the Self-Defense Forces), a conscious undermining, partially acknowledged, of Article 9 of the constitution. On top of this has been the constant, uncritically supportive reporting of these events by the mainstream media in both countries. (Although it may well be that the political despair and apathy of Japanese citizens, myself included, should be the first thing called into question.)

I felt that Japanese and American television and newspaper reports from the United States at that time (and it’s hard to say this has improved with time) were mostly uniform and one-sided, and they were far from offering the kind of information I was looking for. Then I had a chance to read the compilation of interviews that you had done with media from around the world after September 11. Through your commentary, I was exposed to information that placed and understood the events in the vital flow of history, along with your lucid analysis and opinions, and this was the source of great courage for me. I had been aware of your past writings about subjects like the Vietnam War and East Timor and your undaunting support for freedom of expression, but encountering your observations in the aftermath of the recent events reawakened me to the consistency of your perspective.

I thought, "What can I do, what should I do, as a film producer?" and the answer was clear. I want to make a film about you, and by mobilizing screenings of the film, to extend to many people the experience I had in encountering your beliefs as a committed intellectual and the perspective you bring to your work.

This is of course premised on your agreement to participate, but to me it is of great importance that this film be made for screening at theaters and in community gatherings of ordinary citizens (rather than, for example, television broadcast). The screenings, organized through independent mobilization, will provide a place for high-quality discussion and perhaps spur participants to take concrete action. I also think it is necessary for the film to be a high-quality work of visual expression, not a flashy, facile piece of journalistic programming. The film itself must be a force of criticism of mainstream mass media, especially television. For example, we do not intend to use any of the archival footage of the destruction of the World Trade Center, which is repeatedly broadcast as an emblematic focus of public anger. Too often such archival footage is consciously used in support of propaganda, which robs us of the power of our free imagination.

I feel there is a real urgency to this production. I am aware of growing criticism of your opinions in the United States, and I also feel a strong sense of crisis not only about the aggressiveness of the Bush administration but also about the Japanese government’s following this path toward a reliance on violence (military force) for the resolution of problems. Because of this urgency, we would hope to complete filming for the project as soon as possible, within the constraints of your busy schedule.

We would like to make a film of about 90 minutes, centered on interviews with you and footage of speeches or lectures. We would like to conduct about three interviews with you, in several locations, and also film several speeches and lectures to students, again depending on your schedule. We would also like to film you at work in an everyday environment. The film will be subtitled and released initially in Japan, followed by international distribution. I am working out plans for this film together with director John Junkerman, and I will attach some background on his and my work, for your reference.

If, on reading this letter, you are in general agreement with the plans for our production, I would like to follow-up by working with you to develop the content of the interviews and a schedule for production. I look forward to hearing back from you.

With best regards,

Yamagami Tetsujiro
Producer, Siglo, Ltd.
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