Rome Film Fest: 'Truth' Director Responds to Criticisms That Film Is Soft on Characters

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James Vanderbilt

"It’s the fall of the king," director James Vanderbilt says of Dan Rather.

By any accounts Truth was not an easy story to tell. Written and directed by first time director James Vanderbilt, the film brings to light in methodical detail the events surrounding the 2004 Dan Rather (Robert Redford) 60 Minutes story, produced by Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett), about the questionable Air National Guard career of George W. Bush. Rather than find an absolute truth it see-saws back and forth between multiple accounts.

Produced in matter of days around the time of Bush’s reelection campaign, the piece is a rush job and several elements don’t line up. Witnesses can attest that Bush received special treatment to avoid going to Vietnam, but documents that call into question his military records aren’t as concrete. Yet everyone involved believes in the story and they seem to have no reason not to, despite the fact that two out of four of the document verifiers are unable to give their stamp of approval.

Once the story airs, bloggers call false and soon it’s apparent that the documents have appeared out of nowhere. Dan Rather, America’s trusted anchor of the CBS Evening News for 24 years, was forced to resign and the story, and everyone attached, to it fell to pieces.

The film is based on the book written by Mapes about the account, Truth and Duty. Now, some critics have reacted to the film calling it soft on Mapes and Rather.

Vanderbilt responded to the accusations in Rome. “It’s the fall of the king. It’s almost Shakespearean in a way,” he said of the film, not believing it to be in anyway "soft."

"We were aware that there was no version of this movie that was going to make everybody happy. CBS released a statement. What do you expect them to say: thank you?" 

“You call up Dan Rather and say ‘I want to make a movie about you but I don’t want to make a movie about all the amazing things you’ve done. I want to make a movie about the most difficult professional thing you’ve ever gone through and I want to dramatize in exacting detail how all of this fell apart and how you ultimately lost your dream job.’ It’s up to other people to say whether we’re soft on it or not,” said Vanderbilt.

“I feel like the last hour of the movie is a slow-moving car crash when you watch these people’s lives come apart. I had the privilege to watch both of them watch the film and it certainly didn’t feel to me that they felt it was soft on them,” he continued. “So everyone is absolutely entitled to their own opinion and I hope they see the movie and make up their own minds. We worked very, very hard to do the best job we can to tell the story as honestly as possible.”

Truth opens Rome Film Fest Friday night.

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