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Issue 1: Truth v. Fiction
By Prof. Edward J. Gallagher's Reel American History class, August 2012

What are the boundaries of artistic license?
The charge: the film has many conscious distortions and fabrications, among them the threatened castration and the central role of the FBI. "Parker is a dangerous man," says Richard Cohen, "he doesn't care about the truth." Parker: "It is a fiction. It's a movie. There have been a lot of documentaries on the subject. They run on PBS and nobody watches them. I have to reach a big audience, so hopefully the film is accessible to reach millions of people in 50 different countries. It's a fiction in the same way Platoon and Apocalypse Now are fictions of the Vietnam War. But the important thing is the heart of the...
Issue 2: White v. Black
By Prof. Edward J. Gallagher's Reel American History class, August 2012

Should African Americans have had more central roles?
The charge: "Parker uses blacks only as victims," says Jim Emerson, "as meat for the grinder." "The black characters are the movie's sacrificial lambs," adds Rita Kempley. "How long," complains Coretta Scott King, "will we have to wait before Hollywood finds the courage and integrity to tell the stories of some of the many thousands of black men, women and children who put their lives on the line for equality?" "Where are the Fannie Lou Hamers, the Anne Moodys, the Amzie Moores, and the other local people who heroically sustained and built the movement in defiance of white terror," demands William Chafe? Parker:...
Issue 3: Sensationalism and Excessive Violence
By Prof. Edward J. Gallagher's Reel American History class, August 2012

What role should profit play?
Must a film play to the lowest common denominator in the audience?
The charge: "Entire herds of African Americans must be burnt and clubbed so that the FBI-heroes have an ample background against which to exert their iron wills," claims Paul Arthur, "Rather than attempting to portray the institutionalized racism of everyday ingrained social interaction, Hollywood, as always, looks for the sucker punch." "Only a pile of bloody corpses makes a social injustice worth fighting." Moreover, the film shows the FBI resorting to extra-legal violence, which it did not use. "In the interests of mass-audience...
Issue 4: What Story Gets Told?
By Prof. Edward J. Gallagher's Reel American History class, August 2012

Does a director/writer have a right to his/her first premise?
The charge: "The film should have been about the killings of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner," opines James Alan McPherson. "How," questions David Halberstam, "could (Parker) do this to those three young men, turning them into cameo players in what should have been their film?" "The three young men who died defending the rule of law are worse than forgotten. They're defamed," snarls the New York Times . Parker: "Our film isn't about the civil rights movement. It's about why there was a need for a civil rights movement. . . . Hopefully, one day someone will also make a film about the...