While 2020 in the movies was, like many industries affected by COVID-19, disappointing, it was a banner year for documentaries in general and conservative political documentaries in particular. I've reviewed the three best of these films for Newsmax — "Uncle Tom," "The Plot Against the President" and — last week — "Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words."
I recently had the privilege to interview Michael Pack, the director of "Created Equal," a man who has not only made 15 feature films on a multitude of subjects, but was also senior vice president for television programming at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the first Senate confirmed CEO of U.S. Agency for Global Media during the Trump Administration.
Michael Clark: Justice Thomas isn't known as a guy who likes to discuss his personal life. Not only did you get him to open up, but — apart from his wife Ginni — he's the only person interviewed in the film.
Michael Pack: Initially, I wanted to interview as many people as possible, but came to the conclusion it would involve covering so many different points of view — just take his Senate confirmation hearing in particular — and we would lose Justice Thomas' voice. I suggested to him to tell his own story in the first person looking directly into the camera, and he liked the concept. I believe it made him more approachable and relatable. Viewers would spend two hours with him and then make their own decisions about his life and character.
MC: You grew up in New York City and attended Yale, Berkeley and NYU film school. That's not the typical path for a conservative. Was there a point in your life when you had a different political viewpoint?
MP: Yes, very much so. Both of my parents are liberal, and I was very sympathetic to the radical left in my youth. Ironically, my views started to change while I was at Yale — similar to Justice Thomas' beginning to question his radical ideas. It was at the same time at the same place. He was in Yale Law School while I was an undergraduate.
MC: Your 1993 "Campus Culture Wars: Five Stories about Political Correctness" was prophetic in so many ways. I don't think most people were aware the "cancel culture" movement had been gestating that long. Tell me about the history of the film.
MP: I approached PBS about making the movie and they were skeptical, saying that it would be a short-lived phenomenon and it would be over and done by the time I was finished making it, but they still agreed to broadcast it. As it turns out, political correctness and the "cancel culture" has only increased in power and is spreading well beyond the academy.
MC: The recent actions by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to silence conservative free speech — in tandem with the removal of Parler — do you think it has gone too far and will it ever be able to return to normal?
MP: Yes, it has gone too far, and the optimist in me says it can be reversed but not without a fight from those who believe in free speech.
MC: Your 2000 movie "The Fall of Newt Gingrich," while being fair and accurate might be considered by some as unflattering. Was there ever an instance during the production when he wanted to stop participating, and do you know if he ever saw the movie?
MP: No, and to his credit, he cooperated the entire time. I don't think the movie is really unflattering. We do cover the six months where Newt Gingrich started as arguably the most powerful man in America and ended as a private citizen. In the middle, he led the impeachment of Bill Clinton which kind of back-fired on the House Republicans and subsequently cost them in the midterms. I did see him after it came out and I asked if he'd seen it. He said no, but his mother had and he said she liked it, which was good enough for him. He did not want to relive those terrible six months, which I understand.
MC: Regarding "Rediscovering George Washington" (2002) — What was something you found out about Washington that you didn't know prior to making it?
MP: Apart from what most people are already aware — his success as the leader in the Revolutionary War and his place in history as our first president, I wanted viewers to be made aware of his charisma on one hand and his principles on the other. When he entered a room he owned it. Yet, at the end of his second term, people pleaded for him to run again, but he chose to turn over the power of the office to his successor, as he had handed over power after the Revolutionary War. That is model of how to lead in a democratic republic.
MC: Your tenure as the CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media was relatively short [just over eight months]. It is my understanding that the position was supposed to bi-partisan.
MP: In theory, yes. My Senate approval process lasted over three years, due to Democratic opposition, despite no one denying that I was qualified. If there's one thing the left does well it is to obstruct without legitimate cause. In office, I tried to bring the agency back to its core, bi-partisan mission, to tell America's story to the world, not the story of any one party.
MC: It is my understanding that President Biden asked for your resignation on his first day in office. Is that correct?
MC: I'm guessing you didn't want to resign …
MP: No. I had a three-year term, in keeping with the agency's bi-partisan mission. I was even more upset that shortly thereafter my acting successor fired the heads of the five broadcasting networks who had all reported to me. In my opinion, this act violated several laws and was detrimental to the agency's mission.
For links to all of Michael Pack's films, visit www.manifoldproductions.com.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national film industry media outlets and is based in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace. He co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle in 2017 and is a regular contributor to the Shannon Burke Show on floridamanradio.com. Over the last 25 years, Mr. Clark has written over 4,000 movie reviews and film-related articles and is one of the scant few conservative U.S. movie critics. Read Michael Clark's Reports — More Here.
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