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Graffiti for August 12, 2010…My Conversation with Chris Rigopulos, Producer of the film 9500 Liberty

August 12, 2010

A woman, nicely turned out in a blue dress, stands at a podium and intones:

“I would just like to say, and I mean this very sincerely, don’t ever forget 9/11, and who was responsible for 9/11–illegals. God Bless America!!”

With these words, her papers in hand, she turns on her heel and heads back into the crowd.

from 9500 Liberty


While I still lean toward doing my shows live (there’s nothing quite like facing the abyss–not knowing if what you’re stepping off into is bottomless or just knee-deep) there is something to be said about having the opportunity to pre-record and edit what you’ve done. I’ve often compare editing to sculpting. You chip off a little here, cut a line there, smooth out a rough patch. The other thing about editing a show is how you can take your time and work in music. For my conversation with Chris Rigopulos, the Producer of the film 9500 Liberty, I thought long and hard about what would be most appropriate. My first thought was Leonard Cohen’s Democracy:

It’s coming through a hole in the air,

from those nights in Tiananmen Square.

It’s coming from the feel

that this ain’t exactly real,

or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there.

From the wars against disorder,

from the sirens night and day,

from the fires of the homeless,

from the ashes of the gay:

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

But there was something a bit too antagonistic about this. Not the words so much as its martial beat–a thump, thump, thump that invites confrontation. I wanted something a bit more conciliatory.

Being an old rock ‘n’ roller one of the questions you always get asked is the desert island question: If you were stranded on a desert island what five disks (I still find myself writing “albums”) would you want to have with you? My friends laugh at me when this question is asked about films since I have about 100 “top five” films, but when it comes to music I have three that never change then, depending on my mood that day, let the chips fall where they may for the others. The three albums I’d have to have with me are Bonnie Raitt’s, 1975, “Home Plate”; The Stones’s “Let it Bleed” from 1969 and Stephen Stills’s first solo album entitled: Stephen Stills. Released in late 1970 it’s the only album that features two of the all-time greatest guitarists in Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. In fact it is dedicated to Hendrix who’d died two months before it was released.

Whenever I make up a disk of music to listen to as I drive, invariably a song, or many of them, from these albums will end up on it. Before I started editing tonight’s pre-recorded conversation with Chris Rigopulos I was listening to one of these disks and one of the songs–We are Not Helpless from the Stills album–”sang” to me. THIS was the music I needed for tonight. A gentle, positive song that builds in strength over it’s 4:20 running time.

We are not helpless, we are men

What lies between us

It can be set aside and ended

Ev’ryday we learn more how to hate

Shut the door

And then we tell ourselves we can’t relate

Only to the ones who are the same

Yet even they are diff’rent

And ever so they shall remain

All are strangers, all are friends

All are brothers, brothers

Open up, my friend, and learn to hear

For even lying

When it has nothing you should fear

If you cannot let yourself be known

By anyone

Then you are hiding and not whole

All are strangers, all are friends

All are brothers, brothers…

It’s about reconciliation, understanding, brotherhood. It’s about reaching out your hand, not in anger, but to grasp another’s and to listen without fear. It’s time to stop the fear.

Tonight Chris Rigopulos and I have a conversation about immigrants in the United States, the use and abuse of the internet as a new model for political persuasion, and the film he produced: 9500 Liberty that deals with these topics and more.

Click here to listen to that conversation.

Check the “Screenings” page at the 9500 Liberty website but at present the next showing that will be relatively near by will be at The Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 7 PM. Co-director, Eric Byler, will be there for a Q&A.
(914) 747-5555

Click here for the 9500 Liberty Youtube site.

Click here to see Immigration attorney Philip Berns discuss Myths, Lies and Urban Legends about today’s Immigrants.

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