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Turn Key Films president and CEO Cory Tucek says he submitted Amanda Milius’ The Plot Against the President to Amazon on Oct. 10 for streaming with a Prime account as well as for rental or purchase through the website. He was notified Oct. 16 that it was under content review.
Tucek reached out to the tech giant and noted the timeliness of the doc given the looming Nov. 3 election. He received a response that said, “We do not have any insight on the ETA for the title. Thanks for your patience with us during this time.”
Separately, Facebook is giving the film the cold shoulder. On Oct. 10, Tucek submitted an ad to the social media giant for Movies Plus, his newly launched streaming platform. The ad included a poster for Plot Against the President. The following day, he was notified that the ad was rejected for potentially trying to interfere with elections. He then submitted a second ad that featured thumbnail images of 10 movies available on Movies Plus, including Plot Against the President, and that, too, was nixed. A Facebook spokesperson pointed THR to a policy that requires ads about social issues, elections or politics to take additional steps to be authorized.
Milius is the daughter of legendary screenwriter-director John Milius and a State Department alum whose film is based on Lee Smith’s 2019 best-seller of the same name. Milius, who optioned the book in manuscript form last summer and stepped down in early March from her post as the deputy assistant secretary for content in the State Department’s Bureau of Global Public Affairs, began working on the doc in secrecy shortly thereafter. Over the past three months, she interviewed critics of the Russiagate narrative including Rep. Devin Nunes, Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Mike Cernovich and Roger Stone, as well as Gen. Michael Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell.
Ironically, Amazon continues to sell Smith’s book in various formats, including a Kindle version.
Milius says the film is available on a variety of platforms including Vimeo. However, there is no denying the reach of Amazon. “If [Amazon] treated all political films equally it wouldn’t be an issue,” she says. “But Amazon has a history of discretely removing films that don’t politically align with their agenda. Now it has decided to slow the release of The Plot Against the President.”
Tucek says he has released hundreds of films onto Amazon’s platform including … And Suddenly the Dawn, which was the official Chilean submission for the Oscars’ best foreign-language film in 2018. Turn Key also has distributed films via Amazon Prime in foreign territories including the Bradley Cooper starrer The Words. This is the first time Tucek can recall a title being subject to “content review” to determine if it is up to the standards of what Amazon would allow on its platform.
“We’ve never had an issue with a title getting blocked on Amazon to date,” he says. “I think it is a little ironic that the first title we’ve ever had subjected to this happens to be a title that talks about media corruption, bias and censorship. I don’t think it is a coincidence either that Amazon would block a title that sheds a favorable light on Donald Trump.”
Over the years, Tucek has only encountered a problem with Amazon if there was a technical issue with a file, which was flagged differently than a content issue.
He adds: “We’re not trying to be political. We offer a service and are trying to fulfill that service for our client. But it does worry me that we are heading down a dark path where only certain messages are allowed to have an audience and only a few people get to pick and choose those messages we hear. It flies in the face of freedom of speech, and I believe that belongs to everyone regardless of your message or political affiliations.”
Amazon took heat recently for banning Cernovich’s doc Hoaxed, a right-wing take on media bias. In fact, documentary filmmakers on both ends of the political spectrum have begun to complain about censorship from the tech giants including Michael Moore, whose environmental documentary Planet of the Humans was removed from YouTube back in May.
Updated on 10/22/2020 at 11:19 a.m. ET.
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