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YouTube is taking steps to address criticism after the mother of slain American journalist James Foley voiced concerns last month about a forthcoming film, Viper Club, she believes is based on her story and could bring harm to freelance conflict journalists like her son.
The streamer, which will offer the film to subscribers after it leaves theaters, is donating $40,000 to the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, along with 50 percent of the company’s share of Viper Club’s theatrical proceeds. The company is also providing the foundation with an ad grant, which will help spread the word about press freedom issues and the risks faced by independent conflict journalists.
The film was also re-edited to address Diane Foley’s concerns and suggestions. She engaged a freelance photojournalist and former colleague of her son’s, Nicole Tung, to review the film and ensure it would cause no harm.
In particular, Foley said it was dangerous to show journalists raising ransom and bringing that money in-country.
“In consultation with Diane and the board of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation we have chosen to adjust the film to better reflect the everyday realities for conflict journalists, their families and the incredible risks they undertake to tell important stories from some of the most dangerous places in the world,” YouTube said in part in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
The film’s producers worked closely with Foley and also reached out to other families of kidnapped journalists. When Viper Club hits theaters Friday, it will now include a dedication to Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Luke Somers.
“They all were truly engaging and very concerned that the film not put anybody at risk,” Foley said of its producers. “I just feel much better about the film and am very grateful that they were willing to listen…. They were very cooperative, which was very helpful — healing, if you will.”
J.C. Chandor, a producer on the film, spoke with Foley several times and liaised with her foundation. “All I wanted to do as a producer at that point was figure out what had gone wrong obviously and what we had missed,” he said. “We were trying to correct a few things in there that were really the things that were bothering her. She wanted to make sure we got the movie right. I think once she started to understand that our motives were pure, I think that helped.”
As of now, Foley has no plans to promote the film but said she’s glad it will call attention to issues she cares about. “I hope it’s the beginning of a collaboration for the safety of journalists and promotion of freedom of speech,” she said. “I feel it’s a good first step, so I’m grateful for that.”
Foley hopes to thank the film’s star, Susan Sarandon, who she believes played a big role in communicating her concerns. The two spoke at the airport following the film’s debut at the Toronto Film Festival.
“I think as producers we learned a lesson, and the exciting thing is that the movie is coming out,” Chandor said.
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