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<I>Fog of War</I> Director Uses DVD to Extend Film

5 May, 2004 By: Anne Sherber


Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment (CTHE) will release The Fog of War — the latest Academy Award winner for best documentary — on DVD and VHS May 11 with an additional 24 scenes not included in the film as well as TV spots and previews from the film's theatrical release.

Because of the film's unique nature — it's an extended interview with Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, during which he discusses many of the key events of the 20th century, including the firebombing of 100,000 Japanese civilians in 1945 and the devastating effects of America's involvement in Vietnam — the additional footage is especially valuable as a record of a controversial and painful period in American history.

According to Errol Morris, the film's producer and director, more than 20 hours of interviews with McNamara were shot for the 107-minute film, so the director was pleased to be able to include additional footage for which there was not room in the theatrical release, on the DVD.

“Making a movie, the goal is something that will work in a theater,” Morris said.

According to Tracey Garvin, CTHE's VP of marketing, “DVD is the perfect format for documentaries. Theatrically, they tend to have limited releases. DVD expands consumer access to this product.”

Garvin noted that marketing for Fog has included not only reaching out to the “standard entertainment press, but also political journalists and screenings for members of Congress.”

Additionally, the Choices for the 21st Century Education Program and the Critical Oral History project, both at Brown University, have developed a study guide that offers eight lesson plans to be used in conjunction with the film. It's available online at www.choices.edu/fogofwar. CTHE will be reaching out to university and high school teachers to let them know about it, according to Garvin, and the studio has included information about the study guide in the DVD packaging.

According to Morris, The Fog of War represents a “different way of doing history. History presented on film usually has a narrator who tells you what to think. Here, there's no omniscient narrator, just Robert McNamara, incredibly subjective.”

Morris, who notes that he was an anti-war activist during the Vietnam conflict, believes that, between McNamara's narration and the interstitial material that Morris found in the National Archives to include in the film, Fog conveys some truths about the period.

“I'm a great believer in truth,” Morris said. “I don't like movies that traffic in the notion that there might not be any such thing.”

Morris is not at all disturbed by the idea that more consumers will see his work at home than did in theaters.

“I'm delighted by DVD. I like watching things on a laptop in bed,” the filmmaker said. “There's this idea that movies are supposed to be seen in a certain way; you're supposed to go to a theater, sit up straight, listen carefully. I like not having to do that.”

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