John Pilger replies on Lannan ban of his film
16 June 2011
Patrick Lannan has issued a statement breaking almost a week's silence since his sudden and unprecedented cancellation of my visit to the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe for the US premiere of my film, The War You Don`t See.
The reason that Lannan gives for the cancellation is that too few seats were sold for the event on June 15 planned a year ago, in which David Barsamian and I were to be in conversation about the media, US foreign policy and freedom of speech. "In our opinion," writes Lannan, "to have Mr. Pilger travel thousands of miles from London to Santa Fe to face such a low turn-out would have been embarrassing for him."
This is specious at best, absurd in reality. On 9 June, Barbara Ventrello, Lannan`s Director of Cultural Freedom Special Projects, with whom I had been in contact on almost a daily basis in preparation for the event and the screening of my film, emailed me:
I have just received a call from Patrick Lannan... Something has come up and he has asked me to cancel all events next week. He did not go into details and so I have no idea what this is about, and I apologize... We thank you for your understanding.
With best regards
If Lannan was cancelling my event because of the low turn-out, the principal organiser Barbara Ventrello would have known. Instead she "has no idea what this is all about".
I replied to her and Patrick Lannan that this presented a horrendous re-organisational situation as Lannan had accepted my offer to stage the US premiere of my film in The Screen cinema in Santa Fe. In his statement, Lannan distorts this as a "request". There was no request. At the time, the reply was that it would be an "honour" to show the film.
I was later informed by the manager of the cinema that a Lannan official had called to withdraw the advertising for the film. The same official withdrew advertising from the Santa Fe New Mexican and urged the paper to "pull" the major feature it was running about the film.
In my response, I asked that the film's screening go ahead as its national promotional campaign was linked to the premiere in Santa Fe. This is the reply I received:
I am very sorry, but as stated in my email to you yesterday, all events related to your visit to Santa Fe are canceled. This includes the screening of your film.
Again, no reason was given. Not one of my subsequent emails and phone calls were returned, and no one called me. I have not known anything like it. Like all of us, the cinema management were shocked. I was informed by groups in Santa Fe who have organised similar events that the idea that too few tickets had been sold for the Pilger/Barsamnian event is "near impossible". When I tried to buy the air ticket Lannan had arranged for me, I was told by the travel agent: "I don`t understand it. They won`t allow you to buy it, even though this ticket, when cancelled, will be worthless. I have never known anything like this."
The truth is that there was not the slightest hint from Lannan until virtually the eve of my departure that my appearance would be anything but "very popular". I don't know why Patrick Lannan acted the way he did. At the very least, he has demonstrated that his wealth and power give him the capricious license to do what he wants to do when and how he wants to do it and without explanation, regardless of the consequences. Clearly, the tone and barely credible explanation now offered is designed to humiliate me. For him to now claim a self-regarding mantle as a patron of dissenting writers and film-makers, like myself, is disingenuous in the extreme and, again, absurd. Over 40 years as an investigative journalist and film-maker, I have faced similar action in its various guises, and it reveals itself whenever it happens. This is crude censorship however inexplicable and regardless of reputation and patronage.