Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip1913: Seeds of ConflictThe People V. Leo FrankThe War That Made AmericaGolden Gate BridgeLet’s Get Married ● Inside the Terror NetworkOrgan FarmReal JusticeApocalypse!Rescue at SeaThe Triumph of EvilDreams of TibetWhat Jennifer SawAngel on Death RowThe Gulf War

Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip

View all reviews at the film’s website

Wall Street Journal
“This ‘American Masters’ film provides impressive period detail—some of the most fascinating of which concerns the newspapers of the times.”

“The film’s focus on the prewar period of Winchell’s career is both extensive and bloodchilling—the latter because of the forever-startling sight of the American Nazi movement’s considerable presence. As the film points out, they were regularly on parade, training, drilling, and they were not few. And there was the 1939 meeting in Madison Square Garden, the famous one that drew 20,000 worshipers of Hitler and Nazism, that celebrated George Washington, and that, above all, exhibited gleaming rows of the American flag side-by-side with the swastika.”

Boston Globe
“The age of entertainment-driven politics in which an actor or a reality-TV show host can be president had its origins with a popular newspaper columnist in the 1930s. Such is the premise of Ben Loeterman’s PBS ‘American Masters’ documentary, ‘Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip.’ He makes a strong argument, showing the foreboding similarities between Winchell’s success and our current politics.”

The Daily Beast
Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip, an hourlong documentary airing at 9 p.m. Tuesday (Oct. 20) on PBS stations, explores how he pioneered an unholy fusion of journalism, entertainment and political posturing—call it ideological infotainment—that has become the essential feature and business model of today’s media industry. Thus, the film argues, we can credit Winchell with the template by which Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow, John Oliver and Alex Jones, among many others, have managed to insinuate themselves into various lobes of our disconnected national consciousness.”

“‘We live in a polarized moment. We live in alternative fact universes. We are incredibly fractionalized in our media consumption,’ the documentary’s director, Ben Loeterman, told The Daily Beast. ‘But at some point I think Winchell serves as an origin story for that.’”

The Saturday Evening Post
“If he is remembered, the journalist and radio man Walter Winchell evokes a few different types of memories. Baby boomers might recall the narrator of the 1959 series The Untouchables. Their children might have caught the HBO biopic Winchell that starred Stanley Tucci as the fedora-donning gossip columnist. Younger people likely won’t recognize the name Walter Winchell at all. But consider this: every time you guiltily click on a link promising a juicy scoop on a washed-up actor, Winchell is somewhere, smiling.”

1913: Seeds of Conflict

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Shot on location, dramatized scenes bring key figures of the era to life, with dialogue in five languages taken directly from the historical record — personal letters, government documents, newspaper accounts, as well as documents from the Turkish Ottoman archives that were previously unavailable and largely untouched by historians.”

“In Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, German and French with subtitles, the film poses the questions of how ‘this land of milk and honey,’ so diverse and rich in culture, became the site of today’s bitter and seemingly intractable struggle? Was there a turning point — a moment in time when things could have been different?”

National Catholic Reporter
“The comprehensive and compact docudrama ‘1913: Seeds of Conflict’ reveals little-known facts that conflated to become what writer/director Ben Loeterman proposes as the root causes for today’s ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.”

“[Loeterman’s] fascinating documentary…tries very hard not to assign blame but to look at the history and culture of all sides of the conflict that continues to drive unrest in the what Jews, Christians and Muslims all call the Holy Land.”

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The People V. Leo Frank

New York Times
“‘This case has it all,’” someone will often say about a particularly gruesome or scandalous court proceeding — the O. J. Simpson trial, for instance, or anything involving John Gotti Jr. But you won’t find a case with more ‘all’ than the one nearly a century ago surrounding an Atlanta pencil factory superintendent named Leo Frank. It is mesmerizingly recreated and explored Monday on PBS in ‘The People v. Leo Frank,’ a film by Ben Loeterman that even those already familiar with this ugly piece of history are likely to find unsettling.”

“It’s fascinating history well presented, but that’s only part of what makes this film linger in the mind. The biases and divisions brought to the surface by the Frank case are still easy to find today. So are people who specialize in fear-mongering and fanning small fires into big ones.”

Los Angeles Times
“‘The People v. Leo Frank’ is an artful autopsy of tragedy. A girl was murdered, a man was murdered and men became monsters. Frank’s behavior was just as damning as his religion; Conley’s personal attorney, who stepped forward so yet another black man would not be wrongfully accused, realized too late that his client was a liar, and a community, justifiably incensed by the rape and murder of a child, allowed itself to be whipped into regional and anti-Semitic hysteria.”

“Loeterman has given us a fine historical document that captures many facets of American life through the prism of a single event. But more than that, he reminds us that while technology and social mores have advanced and shifted, human nature has not. And in times of national outrage and fear, we would do well to remember that we put a blindfold on Justice, and we had good reason.”

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The War That Made America (2006)

“Shooting on location in Pennsylvania, writer-producer-directors Eric Stange and Ben Loeterman (who alternated on the chapters) deliver a handsome production that draws dialogue from journals and first-person accounts to breathe life into the history. Along the way, they capture broken promises that plagued Indians long after the Europeans departed, the difficulties that face occupying forces in strange lands and how Washington gradually learned ‘to be a leader of men.’”

The Chronicle For Higher Education
“A summary can hardly do justice to the effectiveness with which the details of a complex narrative are managed. Through all the scene changes, shifts in alliances, comings and goings of major characters, the production has a remarkable seamlessness. The directors Loeterman and Stange bring a comprehensive order to a potentially sprawling story and spare no effort in their re-creations.”

“Those able to view the program in high-definition format will be dazzled. The camera work is splendid; the special effects astonishing (you feel as if you are actually looking down on Fort Duquesne); the costumes and sets based on extensive research; and the acting, in general, of a high order.”

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Golden Gate Bridge (2004)

TV Guide
“Loeterman, a Frontline veteran who also profiled John Dillinger for The American Experience, handles the material smoothly and he never gets bogged down in technology.  Even the occasional atmospheric recreations that fill in holes in the archival record are elegant.  They had better be because few things in this world are as elegant as the Golden Gate Bridge.”

Boston Globe
“The film is especially strong in social history. Like most big projects, the bridge drew fierce opposition.  Ferry operators feared competition. Shippers claimed the bridge would impede navigation. Military experts worried that it might be blown up to block the harbor. More surprising, environmentalists said it would ruin the harbor’s beauty.”

“America in the 1930’s, in the depths of the worst depression in its history, responded by building an amazing amount of what we most value today.  It was a time of skyscrapers like the Empire State and of great public works such as dams, bridges and tunnels. ‘Golden Gate Bridge’ evokes the energy of that long-ago time.”

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Let’s Get Married (2002)

The Baltimore Sun
“‘Let’s Get Married’ deserves praise not just for exploring the relationship between culturally embedded attitudes toward marriage and huge social problems that we have been unable to solve for more than 40 years, but for doing so in a context that makes simple-minded conservative-liberal, Republican-Democratic and black-white distinctions all but impossible.”

“It is only an hour, on a Thursday night in November when it’s likely to be dwarfed by the competition. But, maybe, it’s the place where a reasoned and informed national discussion can finally begin.”

Chicago Tribune
“‘Let’s Get Married’ artfully blends the past and present of the marriage debate, which boils down to the contention that many of society’s ills can be fixed by making a lot more two-parent households.”

“It’s impressive for taking us into the lives of both rural Oklahomans, where the marriage problem is that it’s too casual, and urban Chicagoans, where it’s too rare.”

“Working with producer-writer Ben Loeterman, correspondent Kotlowitz is able to point out that Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1960s lament over the decline of the black family, controversial at the time because it was seen as stigmatizing, turns out to have been a foreshadowing of the decline of the American family in general.”

Kansas City Star
“Among the underclass of Chicago, where single mothers raise huge clans of kids, marriageable men are in short supply. But in Oklahoma, where people get hitched and unhitched at startlingly high rates, husbands are plentiful—as are ex-husbands, single-parent kids and welfare moms. Kotlowitz and his experts expertly explain why solving either problem, let alone both, is our latest American dilemma.”

Toronto Globe and Mail
“An excellent report on the ‘modern marriage movement’ in the United States. That movement, a loose affiliation of conservatives, self-help pundits, psychologists and marriage counselors, is trying to strengthen marriage in the United States and stop the erosion of the traditional family unit. Right now, the Bush administration is pushing ‘strong marriage’ on to the agenda, but it is siding with the Christian conservatives, not the psychologists and sociologists.”

“Beneath it all simmers a battle between conservatives and liberals in the United States. One side uses economic issues to push a reactionary agenda and the other side rails against any move by government or other institutions to take a more active role in promoting the traditional marriage. It’s a minefield, where few would dare to tread, and it is well documented in this Frontline.”

Dallas Morning News
“The so-called ‘marriage movement’ — a loose-knit group that endorses marriage as a societal good and opposes divorce and out-of-wedlock motherhood — faces a lot of skepticism from the very people it’s targeting, single moms.”

“Frontline correspondent Alex Kotlowitz, a respected writer of books about children and poverty, gives voice to these doubters of marriage as an end unto itself while also allowing promoters of marriage to state their case.”

“His report is another first-rate effort by the long-running PBS documentary series, all the more amazing for the breadth and complexity it packs into an hour.”

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Inside the Terror Network (2002)

Boston Herald
“Inside the Terror Network,’ reported by Hedrick Smith, was prepared post-Sept. 11. The scale of the reporting is admirable. Smith and producer Ben Loeterman trace the path of terrorists from Germany to the Middle East and, finally, to America. The documentary focuses on three of the hijackers who rammed aircraft into the World Trade Center and a field in Pennsylvania.”

“The most compelling aspect of ‘Inside the Terror Network’ is the stark realization of the utterly ordinary aspect of these men. They were not kooks or crazies. They seemed to have everything to live for. Their murderous religious fervor and intentions burned too deeply for anyone else to see.”

“Inside the Terror Network’ makes it clear that the terrorists’ invisibility was the only clue beforehand. It’s an unsettling message about our brave new world.”

Houston Chronicles
“As Frontline details, in impressive chronological order, these conspirators plotted for years, virtually in plain view, unquestioned and unsuspected.”

“Maybe the most bizarre of Frontline’s tales of missed gotchas came just after Atta and Al-Shehhi earned their pilot’s licenses. They flew a small plane to Miami International Airport. When it had mechanical problems, the pair simply walked off and left it on the busy runway.”

“This report reminds us that there is something all of us can do to help in the war against terrorists.  We can keep our eyes open.”

New York Post
“It’s true that much of what is reported here has already been available in long accounts in newspapers and magazines. But since many of us don’t read those, [this show] will give you all you might ever want to know about the planning that went into the attacks.”

“In the end…I have to admit: I still don’t understand why they did it, and even if I see a thousand more shows like these, I don’t think I ever will.”

TV Guide
“The hour (a Frontline-BBC collaboration) profiles Mohammed Atta, Marwin al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, the pilots of the two planes that struck the World Trade Center and the one that crashed in western Pennsylvania, and it chronicles the steps — and the few missteps — they took from the time they met in Hamburg, Germany, in the mid-’90s until the attacks. It also points out the far more numerous missteps U.S. and European officials made in failing to stop them (“They succeeded by commitment and cunning,” Smith says. “We failed from complacency and poor judgment.”). Behind all this is something approaching psychoanalysis. Smith calls the film the ‘personal journey’ of the three men, and it does get quite personal. But it doesn’t get personal for its own sake — do we really want to know these guys? — and there’s no tawdry speculation as Smith probes their motivations.”

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Organ Farm (2001)

Wall Street Journal
“A far more balanced view of a controversial subject is this FRONTLINE two-parter. It weighs the promise that cross-species transplants – specifically the use of the cells, tissues and organs of pigs genetically altered with human DNA – hold for desperately ill men and women against the dangers that a pig virus, introduced into humans, could pose to the general population of heretofore healthy people. We meet human beneficiaries of these experimental treatments, pigs raised in airlocked isolation, animal-rights activists, and scientists who put the risks and benefits in thought-provoking perspective.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“The loaded subject of cross-species transplantation is addressed in ‘Organ Farm’ …This even-handed program lays out the arguments between ethicists and animal rights activists on the one hand and, on the other, doctors and patients who already have begun to see the benefits from this research.”

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Real Justice (2000)

Boston Globe
“To paraphrase the cliche, no one should have to witness the making of sausages or laws.”

“In a two-part series that airs tonight and next Tuesday…Frontline’s ‘Real Justice’ forces us to watch how those laws are enforced in the daily grind of Boston’s criminal court system. To the show’s credit, it’s hard to take your eyes off the unsightly mess.”

“With its cameras granted intimate access to the lawyers, witnesses, defendants, and courtrooms, ‘Real Justice’ wisely resists the impulse to serve up a preachy indictment of overzealous prosecutors or jaded defense attorneys. Instead, it unflinchingly reveals a criminal justice system buckling under its own weight, bursting at the seams.”

New York Times
“While ambitious young people may be veering toward business and media in real life, on prime-time television dramas medicine and law remain the professions with the most consistent ratings track record. …”

“The producers of ‘Real Justice’ have shrewdly capitalized on this obsession while aiming to convey a more realistic portrait of a legal system that seems as stressed and haphazard as Florida’s balloting. Defense lawyers meet clients on the way to a court appearance, with barely a chance to find out their names, much less whether they’re telling the truth or not.”

“Prosecutors spend little time making impassioned and erudite speeches the way their fictional counterparts often do. They’re to busy negotiating bargains that often feel like deals with the devil. Jurors acquit obviously guilty defendants for good reasons (because the evidence was lacking) and bad (because they share the prejudices of a man accused of a homophobic attack).”

“Ben Loeterman and Ben Gale, the producers of ‘Real Justice,’ have brought a discerning perspective to the daily grind of cases, where the petty and the profound can become indistinguishable in the dull glare of institutional fluorescent lights. They particularize the numbing crush by focusing on a handful of lawyers, poorly paid system operatives who handle the bulk of criminal cases, in which victims and defendants tend to be poor and notably unglamorous.”

New York Daily News
“An absolutely riveting Frontline documentary about the American criminal justice system.”

“The production team of “Real Justice” convinced participants to grant virtually total access to all elements of the process. Thanks to wireless microphones worn by lawyers, cops and judges, we can hear them discussing the details of various cases, consulting with victims and witnesses, counseling and educating clients and, not least, cutting deals.”

“Those deals – plea bargains – grease the wheels of the justice system’s assembly line. Put simply, plea bargaining involves prosecutors offering reduced sentences in exchange for guilty pleas. But ‘Real Justice,’ to its credit, also captures some of the complexity of a process that – sometimes, at least – produces a better outcome for all concerned than a trial might.”

“The U.S. version of ‘Real Justice,’ produced by veteran award-winner Ben Loeterman, vibrates with a ceaseless energy and frantic pace. There’s an endless supply of cases but only so many bodies available to handle them and only so many hours in a day. The work never ends. … ‘Real Justice’ doesn’t invalidate fictional TV dramas like ‘The Practice’ (itself set in Boston) and ‘Law & Order’ so much as it reveals their real-life roots.”

Boston Herald
“Many of the deceits and duplicities of the justice system are on display in the remarkable ‘Real Justice’… another chapter in the distinctive Frontline series.”

“This kind of television – the nonfiction film – is the most satisfying genre. Without obtrusive narration, allowing the principles to tell their stories in their own words, ‘Real Justice’ flows in a compelling stream of conscientiousness. The film is well-made, well-intentioned, well-balanced. Yet ‘Real Justice’ is never tedious. The subject matter is high-minded and emotional. The pictures have power.”

“A riveting, important film that makes all those other courtroom dramas on TV pale in comparison.”

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Apocalypse! (1999)

New York Daily News
“Leave it to public television’s premier documentary series to come up with a serious, rational and absolutely riveting examination of the most fundamental and timely question of the hour:”

“Will the new millennium trigger the end of the world, the end of time, the end of existence, the Apocalypse foretold in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation?…”

‘Frontline’ takes an in-depth and at-length look at this notion of a final and all-consuming battle between good and evil, the Armageddon, prior to the Second Coming of Jesus and the re-creation of the world into a place of peace, harmony and justice.”

“William Cran and Ben Loeterman–who wrote, produced, and directed ‘Apocalypse!’–bring this amazing story of life with a vibrancy that transcends a heavy load of information and scholarship. Their achievement is nothing less than extraordinary.”

Houston Chronicle
“‘Apocalypse!’ is a crash course in doomsday scenarios through history, starting with the Bible’s Book of Revelation. And it couldn’t come at a better time.”

With scholars–including the University of Texas’ Michael White–and theologians leading the way, it’s a fascinating tour of how, through the ages, the world has waited for the end, and how each generation of doomsayers has had to reset the clock.”

“The belief is spreading that before Christ can return, the Jews must rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. And Rabbi Richman, whose Temple Institute is dedicated to rebuilding it, believes one of the only things missing to rebuild it is the red heifer.”

“Rancher Clyde Lott plans to fly two planeloads full of pregnant red Angus cows to Israel in December and he is convinced that the “red heifer” will be aboard one of those planes.”

“Where, but in a ‘Frontline’ documentary, would you find out about that?”

New York Times
“‘Apocalypse!,’ tonight’s absorbing two-hour edition of ‘Frontline,’ offers a 2,000-year history of apocalyptic visions, beginning with the final book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation, with its powerful images of a cosmic battle between good and evil, heaven and hell, eternal damnation and an ascent to Paradise.”

Tampa Tribune
“This intelligent, well-documented PBS show, from the same team that produced last year’s ‘From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians,’ gives compelling insight into Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. It is written, directed and produced by William Cran and Ben Loeterman, who did exhaustive research to provide us a thousand years of interpretations of Revelation.”

“It could have been dry and scholarly. But instead, they cleverly show us how much of an impact this book has had on human culture through the ages, from war to art. They traveled to historic sites throughout Europe, Israel and America to film locations and precious texts in their original environments. The result will even interest a nonbeliever.”

Orange County Register
“A deeply informative documentary about the origins of the Bible’s Book of Revelation and its influence on apocalyptic thought.”

“For starters, the word ‘apocalypse’ does not necessarily mean unspeakable decimation or destruction of life as we know it, ‘Frontline’ says. Indeed, apocalypse also means prophesy–honed by various religious figures of different creeds over 2,500 years, couched in admittedly flamboyant symbolic imagery.”

“That and much more info makes ‘Frontline’s’ ‘Apocalypse!’ a great primer for anyone worried about stepping into 2000.”

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Rescue at Sea (1999)

Wall Street Journal
“After the Italy-bound White Star luxury liner Republic and the Florida, a ship filled with Italian immigrants, collided in fog off Nantucket in the winter of 1909, wireless operator Jack Binns’s perseverance, skill and bravery helped save more than 1,500 passengers and crew.”

“Through interviews with historians, the sharp details recounted by the descendants of victims and survivors, and vintage still photos, newspaper headlines, archival films and (easily identifiable) recreations, Mr. Loeterman reveals a story as fascinating in its own death-defying way as that of the White Star Line’s Titanic, whose loss of some 1,500 lives washed most other sea disasters from our collective memory.”

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The Triumph of Evil (1998)

Los Angeles Times
“This jolting film from Mike Robinson and Ben Loeterman argues methodically–through interviews with key participants and intimate observers–that the West ignored warnings from a top Hutu political informant about the coming butchery that he himself had been ordered to help instigate, and that both the Clinton administration and the United Nations Security Council turned their backs on the victims, allowing Tutsis to be brutalized and exterminated en masse.”

“‘The Triumph of Evil ‘ is a sober, systematic report that, while mesmerizing, penetrates to the bone without deploying false sentiment to juice emotion and manipulate viewers. On a human level, though, its overlapping of words and pictures has a heart-aching impact.”

“Voiced by Will Lyman, TV’s finest narrator, ‘The Triumph of Evil’ is more evidence of the 16-year-old ‘Frontline’ being unquestionably the medium’s best source for investigative documentaries, this film following its earlier studies of U.S. foreign policy in this region.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“If you can watch ‘The Triumph of Evil’ to its end, you may not be convinced that America should rush in to stop the bloody wars in Bosnia, Kosovo or anywhere else so-called human beings are still slaughtering themselves like it’s 1099. But the edgy, bitter documentary will help you understand one thing that is still true in the 1990s: It remains disturbingly easy for good men in America and Europe to do nothing – even when faced with evidence of the kind of ‘pure, unambiguous genocide ‘ that occurred in Rwanda.”

“‘Frontline’s’ producers, Mike Robinson and Ben Loeterman, don’t feign neutrality, and they don’t hide their distaste for President Clinton. Their 60-minute horror story has no heroes, just victims, and when it ends, you may have trouble deciding which characters you hate the most.”

New York Times
“The horror with which Joseph Conrad stamped Africa a century ago persists in Tuesday night’s ‘Frontline’ report on the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda.”

“In a hundred days, 800,000 people were killed. ‘The Triumph of Evil’ makes little attempt to give the official arguments for inaction. Instead, a State Department spokeswoman is heard making legalistic distinctions between ‘genocide’ and ‘acts of genocide,’ while the Hutu radio fueled passions: ‘All Tutsis will perish. They will disappear from the earth. We strike them down with arms. Slowly, slowly, slowly, we kill them like rats.’”

“This strong indictment, the latest of ‘Frontline’s’ examinations of American policy in Africa, ends with a devastating summation of Clinton administration policy by Philip Gourevitch, one of the correspondents relied on Tuesday night: ‘It wasn’t a failure to act. The decision was not to act. And at that, we succeeded greatly.’”

Boston Globe
“The overarching, breathtaking crux of the film, in the stark words of writer Philip Gourevitch, is ‘that anybody who believes the words “never again” is deluding themselves dangerously about future holocausts.’”

“‘The Triumph of Evil’ isn’t easy to watch, and not just because of its stomach-churning long shots of mass killing and foreboding message. Its persuasively detailed argument is woven mainly from the words of talking heads. However revealing, shocking, or heartfelt, they demand unflagging attention to fully appreciate the documentary. It’s hard to imagine that if large audiences viewed reports like this, changes in policy wouldn’t follow.”

Charlotte Observer
“As attention focuses on President Clinton’s impeachment over a sex and lying scandal, PBS’s ‘Frontline’ tonight indicts the president, U.N. delegates and other world leaders for looking the other way during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.”

“The charges are serious, but the most disturbing part of the presentation may be the pictures of dead bodies everywhere–bodies being hacked with machetes, bodies decaying in fields, bodies rushing down torrential rivers. Although TV lets us watch such matters from a safe distance, which can reduce the effect, these pictures are haunting to any viewer paying attention.”

“It sometimes seems like entertainment has pushed serious issues off the small screen, but programs such as ‘Frontline’ still take on the tough topics.”

“The one reservation with ‘Triumph of Evil’–and it’s a major one–is that there seems to have been little effort to seek explanations from the White House or the Pentagon. For charges this serious, that is a must.”

New York Daily News
“Not a single person interviewed for ‘Frontline: The Triumph of Evil’ raises his voice, yet anger and bitterness flow through their comments like rivers of hot blood. Eight-hundred-thousand preventable murders in 100 days will do that to you.”

“‘The Triumph of Evil,’ a co-production of the BBC and ‘Frontline’ by Mike Robinson and Ben Loeterman, concedes one point: It is possible that the UN’s decision, three months before the killings began, not to authorize a seizure of weapons from Hutu militias was a good-faith miscalculation.”

“Not so the refusal to intervene when the killing began. Not so the decision to withdraw UN forces when the massacres spread. Not so the politically tainted reluctance of the U.S. and others to use the word genocide, even when genocide clearly was what was occurring. And not so the U.S.’ deadly delay several weeks later in getting UN troops properly equipped to return to Rwanda.”

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Dreams of Tibet (1997)

New York Daily News
“Tonight’s FRONTLINE…walks a fine line between real news and entertainment–and never loses its balance. It is, in fact, the perfect approach for a documentary examining America’s long fascination with Tibet, with a special emphasis on its treatment in Hollywood films and by Hollywood stars.

Those connections could not be more timely, given the current intersection of certain political and entertainment realities.”

“And tonight’s one-hour documentary raises the possibility that the power of Hollywood’s people and products to use images to shape attitudes may well be a force that politicians and policy makers cannot afford to dismiss or ignore. Clearly, as the film demonstrates, the Chinese government takes the matter of images–be they Hollywood movies or photos of the Dalai Lama–very seriously, indeed.”

Arizona Republic
“The PBS series FRONTLINE lives up to its name today with a perfectly timed, fascinating look at the pop-culture phenomenon that is Tibet.”

“On the night before the first U.S.-China summit since Tiananmen Square — and just 18 days since the opening of Seven Years In Tibet — FRONTLINE examines why Hollywood has become so enamored of the Dalai Lama, juxtaposes the two cultures and provides a decent history of Tibet, all in about 52 minutes.”

“And while not totally without skepticism, Dreams of Tibet also doesn’t cheap-shot outspoken stars such as Richard Gere who have taken up the cause of the Dalai Lama, in exile since a 1959 rebellion.”

New York Times
“Dreams of Tibet is implicitly critical of the Clinton Administration, which came into office breathing fire about China’s human rights deficiencies but has since ‘delinked’ trade policy and human rights principles. That, Mr. Schell concludes, has reduced the Tibetan exiles to putting their faith in the generosity of entertainers and the power of the movies.”

San Francisco Chronicle
“Thoughtfully timed for Chinese leader Jiang Zemin’s scheduled White House visit today, a FRONTLINE documentary delves into the Chinese destruction of Tibetan culture, and Chinese efforts to stifle Hollywood films sympathetic to the Tibetan cause.”

“Disney is keenly interested in expanding into China and hopes to build a theme park in Shanghai. Perhaps tellingly, FRONTLINE shows a clip from Charlie Rose’s PBS interview show in which Disney chairman Michael Eisner haltingly tells Rose that as a company, Disney takes no position on human-rights.”

“It’s a chilling moment in a program that’s really a microcosmic glimpse of a wider issue–the willingness of U.S. corporations, and now the Clinton administration, to ‘de-link’ human rights from economic dealings with China. If Tiananmen Square can be overlooked, how can Tibet be more than a sentimental morsel in the scheme of multinational business?”

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What Jennifer Saw (1997)

New York Times
“This carefully reported hour takes pains to make clear that this was not a stereotypical case of old-fashioned Southern injustice. Mr. Cotton was a plausible suspect. He had a police record, including a conviction for rape, and a shaky alibi. But given little physical evidence, the prosecution relied on Ms. Thompson’s identification during the trial. A lawyer comments: ‘It is incredibly powerful evidence, and jurors want to believe the victim. They identify with the victim and especially when there’s really no motive for the victim to lie. It is very hard evidence to overcome.’”

Boston Globe
“Producer Ben Loeterman intimates that this is the judicial system at the crossroads. An eyewitness identification, while not often convincing to lawyers and judges, is powerful evidence when it comes to the jury. One juror, interviewed for this program, said that everyday she watched an emotionless Ronald Cotton sitting in court every day she believed he got guiltier and guiltier.”

“In the Cotton case, the police, the witnesses, and the judge all did their jobs to the best of their abilities, and a man who was innocent ended up losing more than a decade of his life–and more. Ronald Cotton now works in the DNA lab that provided the evidence of his innocence.”

“What makes this nonfiction film so compelling is that Loeterman goes beyond guilt and innocence to raise fundamental questions about the thousands of others who may be falsely imprisoned. He further suggests there are serious fissures in the foundation of our judicial system.”

Philadelphia Daily News
“Since 1989, dozens of people have been freed in cases where DNA tests later showed seeing wasn’t believing, but such testing can be done only in cases where DNA evidence has been left behind, suggesting a certain percentage of other cases may be faulty, too.”

“If most of your notion of crime and punishment is derived from the prosecution-friendly arena of prime-time TV, where the overwhelming majority of the doers really did it, you owe yourself a look at What Jennifer Saw.”

Bloomington Voice
“Producer/director Ben Loeterman, in this brief and elegant film, brings human memory expert Elizabeth Loftus to the screen, who makes an obvious yet chilling observation: ‘…People do have more trouble identifying the faces of strangers of a different race than strangers of their own race.’ This ‘cross-racial identification problem,’ as she puts it, is of course at the heart of what Jennifer saw: a white woman trying to identify a black man.”

“Ronald Cotton is free–yet 11 years was spent in prison. Jennifer, presumably, never will be free from the pain of her rape, nor from her suit regarding misidentifying Cotton as her assailant. DNA testing, now firmly in place, gives us something besides unreliable human perceptions to convict…or release–suspects.”

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Angel on Death Row (1996)

USA Today
“Sister Helen Prejean is smack dab in the middle of her 15 minutes of multi-media fame.  Her Book Dean Man Walking became an Oscar-winning film…”

“She’s on a high-profile roll, but tonight’s excellent Frontline, Angel on Death Row, could prove humbling.  While sympathetic to her sympathies for the lost souls facing execution, this report gives equally powerful voice to victims and surviving families.”

New York Times
“Whether you grant Sister Helen Prejean the program’s title of “Angel on Death Row” will depend on what you think the law ought to demand of murderers like Robert Lee Willie.  And that, tonight’s even-handed report suggests, might have been influenced by the movie…Dead Man Walking.

“Ambivalent feelings come from Debbie Morris, a victim of Willie, who testified against him in his murder trial.  She was 16 when he and an accomplice held her prisoner for a day or more, raping her repeatedly, and tortured and almost killed a friend.  In tonights first television appearance, she says that reading Sister Helen’s book, she felt that the author ‘never saw the side of Robert Willie that I saw.’”

Daily Variety
“Angel on Death Row takes Dead Man Walking one step further, both in time and ideology.  Loeterman skillfully chronicles the ongoing recovery of Morris, and how her own conscience has developed so that she might consider changing her views.  In so doing he successfully frames the death penalty debate, no mean feat considering its bewildering complexity.”

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The Gulf War (1996)

New York Times
“The program demonstrates how ragged the ending really was, with American mistakes at the Safwan talks inadvertently aiding Saddam in suppressing Shiites, whom the United States had urged to rebel, and in clinging to power. Mrs. Thatcher, who played an important role in stiffening President Bush’s resolve, notes that she and Mr. Bush soon lost power, while Saddam, ‘the aggressor,’ stayed in office. ‘I wonder who won,’ she says.”

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