October 05, 2006

The great simplifiers

Still trying to catch up with various things; that's meant this blog has been on backburner mode for a while. But it will be back to frontburner mode soon, and that's a threat ...

Meanwhile. In the context of the ongoing announcements of verdicts in the Bombay bomb blasts trial, in the context of this post I had here a couple weeks ago, these few paragraphs. This an excerpt from an interview the German paper Der Spiegel did with Steven Spielberg after his film Munich was released earlier this year.

    SPIEGEL: The main charge against "Munich" is political or, if you wish, ideological: you are accused of morally equating the Palestinian terrorists with their Israeli pursuers.

    Spielberg: That is utter nonsense. Those critics are behaving as if we all had no moral compass. Naturally, it is a terrible, despicable crime when, as in Munich, people are taken hostage, people are killed. But probing the motives of those responsible and showing that they are also individuals with families and have their own story does not excuse what they did. Wanting to understand the background to a murder doesn't mean you accept it. To understand does not mean to forgive. Understanding has nothing to do with being soft; it is a brave and very robust attitude to take.

    SPIEGEL: Your opponents say that you "humanize" terror.

    Spielberg: Do these critics really mean that terrorists are not human beings? I try not to demonize them. Again, this has absolutely nothing to with relativizing their acts or sympathizing with them. But I do believe that it sullies the memory of the victims if we do not ask questions about the reasons, about the roots of terror. My film is not supposed to be a pamphlet, not a caricature, not a one-dimensional view of things. I refuse to give simple answers to complicated questions.

    SPIEGEL: Isn't that also part of the problem: the situation in the Middle East is so complex that even an almost three-hour, multilayered film cannot come close to tackling it?

    Spielberg: I do not claim to be providing a peace plan for the Middle East with my film. But is that a reason to leave it all to the great simplifiers? Jewish extremists and Palestinian extremists who to this day regard any form of negotiated solution in the Middle East as some kind of betrayal? Keep my mouth shut just to avoid trouble? I wanted to use the powerful medium of film to confront the audience very intimately with a subject with which they are normally familiar in an abstract sense at the most -- or only from a biased point of view.


HP said...

This one was pretty good. Thanks!!


Anonymous said...

...and also in the context of Afzal mercy petition.

Anonymous said...

I didn't really like Munich all that much, Spielberg didn't really flesh out Palestinian politics, or really spend much time on the bloody reprisals. It was a little too Hollywoody for my taste, this is in contrast to a film like Gillo Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers for example..

Anonymous said...

Hi Dilip,

I think the earlier commenters didnt quite get the context that you were trying to place this in, w.r.t "simple questions". This comment is not about the movie.

I think you are trying to let Spielberg speak for you here and mostly endorse his POV.

Then there is a problem with:
>Spielberg: Do these critics really mean that terrorists are not human beings?

You yourself have said so Dilip. Non-humans for Mumbai 7/11, sick bastards and much worse for NYC 9/11.

I think it is required, if you are doing a soft piece on understanding terrorists, that you clearly also state that you oppose the terrorism.

I know you have earlier stated that this opposition or condemnation is to be assumed by default, but at least in the context of this soft piece, it isnt.


Dilip D'Souza said...


> I think it is required ... that you clearly also
> state that you oppose the terrorism.

Do understand. I don't jump through hoops for you nor for anyone else. In consequence, please assume what you like about me. Demands like this one get the only treatment possible: they get ignored.

Anonymous said...

>I dont jump thru hoops

thanks DDS. I have a second hoop that you will ignore:

Simple vs Complex

Spielberg/DDS finds terrorism a complex issue. You have earlier stated that separatism in NE India is a complicated issue that somebody simplistically blamed on Xtian missionary conversion activities.

But your questionnaire in "simple questions" is all so simple. A convicted criminal terrorist asking for punishment for others is a simple matter.

How did you decide so easily which is in which category?

Ps- Agreed with your opinion in both of those examples but interested in getting a reply or another "ignore" flag.

Dilip D'Souza said...


> How did you decide so easily which is in
> which category?

I'm not sure what you mean, but simple questions don't necessarily have simple answers. The very discussion around those simple questions proves this point. Easy to ask them. Maybe not so easy to answer.

Which doesn't mean they don't deserve answers.