Sides trade shots over 'Redacted'


NEW YORK -- Controversy continues to mount over Brian De Palma's scripted Iraq movie "Redacted," with the director questioning his distributor and right-wing pundits taking shots at the helmer.

The auteur told a New York Film Festival audience late Wednesday that he has lost a battle to keep real photos from the war from being altered as part of the controversial film's closing montage.

Instead, he was forced to redact, or black out, the faces in those photos at the request of the distributor, the Mark Cuban-owned Magnolia Pictures, which is releasing the movie in mid-November.

"The irony of all this is that even though everyone (in Iraq) has a digital camera and access to the Internet, somehow we don't see any of these images," De Palma said. "Why are things being redacted? My own film was redacted."

De Palma added that he "lost" the long-running fight with producers to allow the images only 24 hours before the screening. At a postscreening dinner, producers acknowledged that it was a difficult decision but, given the legal and financial concerns, one in which they had little room to maneuver.

While Magnolia probably is one of the few major indie distributors that would release the provocative war movie -- which depicts fictional soldiers raping an Iraq teenager and killing her family -- the director has said he felt misled because Magnolia originally told him he could use the photos unredacted.

The graphic photos depict victims of the war; with the black magic-marker etchings across their faces, though, the faces are now difficult if not impossible to recognize. Magnolia execs have said that it's impossible to get legal releases for the photos, while Cuban has been quoted as saying he found the unredacted images problematic.

The film originally was sent to such festivals as Toronto and New York, both of which chose to include it in their lineups, unredacted.

The dispute is likely to further stoke the movie's critics, particularly on the right. Comments about the movie by De Palma -- already a whipping boy for what conservative pundits say is a radical agenda -- prompted Fox News on Thursday to cover the story as "far-left infighting," with Bill O'Reilly calling De Palma "a true villain in our country" and saying the movie could lead to deaths of U.S. troops.

O'Reilly suggested that no one would see the film, though an enthusiastic response at the New York Film Festival screening -- and the continued glare from right-wing media -- likely would raise curiosity levels and possibly ticket sales.

"Redacted," which was shot in Jordan with real soldiers and actors, will be released under Magnolia's soon-to-be-defunct HDNet banner. Cuban and Todd Wagner are exec producers on the film.

The comments cap several tense days at the movie's major-media debut. On Monday, after the director complained about the decision on the photos at a NYFF news conference, Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles and Jason Kliot, an HDNet principal and one of the film's producers, each stood up from the audience to disagree.

Bowles countered the charge that Magnolia was taking the easy way out when he asked De Palma in front of reporters, "Who else would make this movie?"

But De Palma remains outspoken. Commenting generally about passages being redacted from military documents, De Palma said Wednesday: "One starts to wonder why is this happening. Is someone trying to stop us from seeing this?" he asked. "It's all on YouTube."