It takes years, usually, to create documentaries, and filmmakers can’t possibly predict what the world will be like when their movie actually gets released.
Sometimes you get lucky. There’s a movie opening this week about the responsibilities and shortcomings of how the press covers our ruling organizations. It’s called “All Governments Lie.”
Sure, director Fred Peabody might tell you he timed it this way from the beginning. But I suspect that would be an “alternative fact.”
The film’s subtitle is “Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone.” Stone was a pioneering journalist who went his own way; his weekly news sheet (from 1953 to 1971) predated the personal blog, in a way — he didn’t rely on a mainstream news apparatus to support or impede him.
The documentary occasionally refers to Stone, and he is seen in vintage clips from “The Dick Cavett Show,” where he explains in about 30 seconds why the Vietnam War is not winnable by anybody but the Vietnamese.
Primarily, though, “All Governments Lie” is interested in showing how today’s news media have a tendency to accept what they’re given from government sources. Here we get a few familiar left-wing faces weighing in, including political activist Noam Chomsky, journalist Glenn Greenwald, and filmmaker-gadabout Michael Moore.
Also included is Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi, who has been one of the more vigorous journalists in recent years. He’s from the wear-down-the-shoe-leather, do-what-it-takes-to-get-the-story school of reporting (although in his case, he still has a big publication bankrolling him).
Its outcome might be easy to predict, but the film is lively. It details a few underreported stories and speculates about why that is, and it recalls some whoppers of the past (Colin Powell’s unquestioned United Nations testimony, which greased the skids toward the Iraq War).
One of the opinions offered here is that I.F. Stone was lucky to be excluded from the White House briefing room in his day, because it meant that instead of spending his time writing down the memos of the press secretary, he was out getting the stories.
Given the hullaballoo going on in the current White House press room, this lesson might be something for journalists to heed.
“All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone” (3 stars)
Documentary portrait of today’s press, seen in contrast to the renegade ways of the do-it-yourself reporter I.F. Stone. It’s a lively survey that urges journalists (and readers) to demand more truth in government.
Rating: Not rated; probably R for subject matter
Showing: Grand Illusion