Errol Morris On ‘American Dharma’ & Steve Bannon Who “Embraces” Comparisons To Lucifer – Venice


Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris is at the Venice Film Festival presenting his Steve Bannon documentary, American Dharma, out of competition.

The Fog Of War director faced some tough questions from the press corps this afternoon, particularly as to whether he was normalizing and giving a platform to the controversial former White House strategist who is happy to be compared to Lucifer.

“Did I struggle with the question?” Morris responded. “The answer is yes. If the question is, Am I still struggling with it? The answer would still be yes.” However, “My answer is not to remain silent and not make the movie. I believe I’ve done something different… Trying to explore the nature of what (Bannon) calls national populism, what it means for the world, for my country, I think is absolutely essential.”

Bannon, as expected, did not turn up at the press conference — although Morris said it wouldn’t surprise him if he had. He is expected to attend a screening of the movie here later today.

One of the questions Morris wanted to address was whether Bannon “really believes in this ideology, or is he just a salesman, an opportunist who’s using these ideas as a way of gaining power? I lean to the latter. But there is something about his beliefs and the way he expresses them. I think he’s for real at least in part, and to me that makes it even more frightening.”

He added, “Do I find his ideas pernicious? I do. Do I believe there’s a contradiction at the heart of what he says? I do. Is there an apocalyptic element that goes well beyond Trump to some truly destructive ideal? I believe there is. Does he have an ideology at all beyond just promotiing himself? I doubt it.”

Morris uses Bannon’s favorite films as a framing device, in particular Henry King’s 1949 war drama Twelve O’Clock High. The list, which surprised Morris, includes John Ford, David Lean, Orson Welles and Stanley Kubrick titles. Morris also learned that Bannon had earlier in his career decided to make documentaries himself after seeing The Fog Of War. “That was a complete surprise. Was I a little bit horrified? Yeah. Also, his interpretation is completely different from mine.”

Morris suggested to Bannon that he is reminiscent of Lucifer in Paradise Lost. “He embraces the idea. How many characters over the years have I interviewed that have embraced the idea that they might be Satan? I can’t think of any except for one.”

Overall, Morris believed it was important to focus on Bannon “to try to come to an understanding. What frightens me is he’s been successful in Europe. He would like to probably turn Europe back into a world of warring nation states. It’s insane. Do we have no awareness of history in America? Probably we don’t. Should we? You betcha.”

“I believe it’s important for us certainlly in America and throughout the world to understand better what’s going on. To ignore it is a very big mistake.”

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