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John McTiernan made the personal political as he accepted a career honor at the Deauville festival with a speech highly critical of the U.S.
After thanking the festival for welcoming him back after “an extraordinarily difficult time,” the Die Hard and Hunt for Red October director, who was released from prison Feb. 25, scrapped his prepared speech to speak off the cuff about the prison system.
“I can only plead with you to examine the current political and cultural works of my country [the U.S.]. We are in the hands of a terrible counterrevolution and a great reaction, a second Civil War sponsored by the same people that lost the first Civil War,” the director said.
“And it has created a good president who is a prisoner of the White House who can do little beyond the ceremonial,” McTiernan continued. “It has made, despite of what you may see on screens, a prison country, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing what most people in our class are never allowed to see. I’ve seen the engine of the beast, it has given us a country with more prisoners than North Korea per capita, more policemen per capita than Germany in 1938. They have suspended trial by jury in most of America.”
He also contended that the U.S. sends 750,000 people per year to prison, and that cumulatively over the last two decades 15 percent of the adult population have been incarcerated. “All are predominantly poor white, poor brown and poor black people. And that is the point,” McTiernan said. “That is the engine of the machine; because these people forever are disenfranchised, they can never vote. Taking 15 percent of the electorate out of the electorate is enough to control anything.” Applause followed those remarks.
The purpose of the mass incarceration is the transfer of wealth, he said, noting: “They have transferred approximately one-third of the wealth of the country from the middle class and the poor not to the top one percent, but to one-tenth of one percent.”
The Die Hard director closed his remarks saying that he attempted to make his films egalitarian. “I hope that you saw my loathing for elitism in those films,” he concluded to long applause.
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