[spectre] On Peace movements from Arts of the stage

Louise Desrenards louise.desrenards at free.fr
Sun Jul 30 14:48:19 CEST 2006

A reverse of insubordination front of the actual chief of government in UK
who seems tribute without condition to US totalitarian strategies...:

Amy Goodman of "Democracy now": interview of Vanessa Redgrave on the
cancellation of a play from Rachel Corrie ‹Peace activist who was killed in
Gaza‹ that would have taken place in New York on March 20th.


Legendary Actor Vanessa Redgrave Calls Cancellation of Rachel Corrie Play an
³Act of Catastrophic Cowardice²
Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

Presentation of the circumstances: please go to the link



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    AMY GOODMAN: Last night, we visited the home of Oscar Award-winning
actress Vanessa Redgrave and talked to her about the situation. During her
acting career ­ it has spanned some 47 years -- she has served as U.N.
Goodwill Ambassador, was a founding member of the International Artists
Against Racism. Vanessa Redgrave is one of the most famous of the legendary
Redgrave acting dynasty. She started her acting career opposite her father,
Sir Michael Redgrave. Her children are Natasha Richardson and Jolie
Richardson, her son-in-law Liam Neeson. Her brother, equally outspoken, is
Corin Redgrave; her sister, actor Lynne Redgrave.

In 1997, Vanessa Redgrave funded and narrated a documentary based on the
plight of the Palestinian people. That same year, she starred in the film
Julia, about a woman murdered by the Nazi regime in the years prior to World
War II for her anti-Fascist activism. Vanessa Redgrave won an Oscar for her
performance. At the awards ceremony she spoke out on behalf of Palestinians,
an Oscar acceptance speech that¹s referred to even to this day. Well, last
night we spoke with her at her home in London, just before she went into the
hospital this morning for an operation, about the postponement of the play
My Name Is Rachel Corrie.

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: Well, I expect your viewers know that My Name Is
Rachel Corrie was supposed to be opening in New York at the New York Theatre
Workshop in the week beginning March the 20th, and the Royal Court Theatre,
who are the producers of My Name Is Rachel Corrie, were raising money for
the 50,000 pounds that was their share of the production, and Alan Rickman
had underwritten it, and suddenly, the New York Theatre Workshop said
something strange over the phone to the Royal Court, like maybe we¹ve got to
postpone this because we have consulted with a number of groups in New York
City and we just don¹t think ­ and then, I believe, from some other emails
I¹ve heard, the New York Theatre Workshop referred to ³contextualization,²
which nobody what that means.

      But the basic thing is that -- what's horrible about it is that, first
of all, the text of this production ­ because it isn¹t a play ­ was taken
from Rachel's diaries. Rachel was a fantastic young American girl, who any
country, anybody of any faith or race should be just so proud and thrilled
that the human race can produce a girl like that. So the entire text was
taken, edited from her diaries by Alan Rickman, who directed, and Megan
Dodds, playing Rachel, and performed at the Royal Court Theatre to
overwhelming critical wonder, let alone acclaim, and to all of us who went
to the see the place once, twice or more.

      And the theater was full of young people, full of young people who
hadn't been to the Royal Court Theatre before, but had the idea that this
was a play about a young girl and therefore it might have something to do
with something they might care about. In fact, I was with Alan one night in
the Royal Court bar downstairs, and there were loads of young girls, and, of
course, they were all coming up to Alan and saying, ³Well, you know, we
didn't know what to expect, but this is really -- this is extraordinary,
extraordinary,² because they hadn¹t even, some of them, been in the theater
before, any theater before, let alone the Royal Court Theatre before.

      And Rachel, as anyone who¹s seen this production, based entirely on
her diaries until she was killed trying to defend these Palestinian lives,
who were in this house, that an Israeli army bulldozer was heading for to
demolish, and Rachel knew they were in the house, and so she just stood in
front of the house like all the international volunteers have been doing and
like some wonderful Israeli human rights people who I know have been doing,
and the bulldozer kept coming, and her back was broken and she died.

      And it was canceled, although they used the word ³postponed.² But we
all know in the theater that if you use the word "postponed," you mean
³canceled.² Let alone that there were jobs at stake, let alone that money
that was at stake, the main issue, and now it¹s important in a blacklisting
kind of time where we are, but the terrible thing was that it was silencing
that girl, and she was killed to be silenced. These volunteers, they stand,
whether Israeli or American or from whichever country they were coming, in
her case, American, they stand in front of a house or some children or a
building to prevent the families being shot at and the houses being
demolished, and they crawl out and wave white flags.

      So, her voice was silenced by an IDF bulldozer, a Caterpillar
bulldozer, but then the Theatre Workshop in New York, they not only then
silenced her by canceling this production, but at the end of the production,
there's a little, little moment from a speech that Rachel made when she was
ten years old at a school ceremony, and the children must have all been told
to prepare speeches about what they cared about in the world, and Rachel
made this speech about world poverty and the misery that poverty causes and
her wish and desire and belief that the world could and would end poverty,
and that this must be done. So the New York Theatre Workshop also silenced
that little girl, too, who is speaking for everybody all over the world,
whoever they are. It¹s a very, very bad situation.

      AMY GOODMAN: So, this play did not -- this production did not cause
controversy in London?

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, I suppose behind the scenes it did. In fact, I
know it did, because the Royal Court Theatre were getting various letters
and phone calls and so on, but you know, I mean, that's normal. What are we
all about? Supposed to be a democracy where people can say what they want
and make a phone call or write a letter saying, ³I don't agree² or ³This is
awful² or whatever, but the Royal Court quite rightly didn't pay any
attention at all, and the audiences packed in.

      AMY GOODMAN: And what about the argument that in this time of, I guess
they had said, the Prime Minister Sharon in a coma and the Hamas election,
that they didn't think it was the proper time?

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: Is that what they said? I hadn¹t read that. Is that
what they said?

      AMY GOODMAN: I think there was some mumbling about that.

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, well, I'm sure there¹s a hell of a lot of
mumbling behind, but it doesn't matter. I mean, the essence of life and the
essence of theater is to communicate about lives, either lives that have
ended or lives that are still alive, beliefs, what is in those beliefs, and
this was an extraordinary young girl. It wasn¹t -- she didn't take sides,
although she went to defend Palestinians. It isn't about taking sides. It¹s
about defending human life. That's the basis of all human rights. That's the
basis of what every country proclaims it stands for.

      I don't know of a single government that actually abides by
international human rights law, not one, including my own. In fact, violate
these laws in the most despicable and obscene way, I would say. But to
cancel a play, and it wasn't really a play, to cancel a voice, because it
was her voice, is an act of such catastrophic cowardice, because we are
living in times when people are quite fearful enough about speaking out, for
losing their career or, you know, whatever, and I think it¹s -- people in
the theater, in film, radio, television, dance, music, we have to do what we
must do.

      AMY GOODMAN: Do you think times have changed since you won the Oscar
about a quarter of a century ago and spoke out for Palestinians then?

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, yes. Times have changed, alright. The human
rights movement, the nongovernmental organizations, the U.N. agencies have
got stronger and stronger. There are communities all over the world who work
with human rights groups. In contradistinction to this wonderful
development, you have governments that are violating human rights. Now, if
you have an artistic enterprise that then moves in and opens the door for
all the censorship-directed policies of any government, then that becomes a
conduit for silencing of an awful lot of people who have got things to say
about many other things. So I¹ve never known -- I must say, in my
experience, I had the support of Jewish communities. I had the support of
American Actors Equity, because, you know, efforts were made to silence me
along the way, and I had to, you know, go to several court cases, in fact,
and I did. I sued, and it was in the suing that the truth came out --

      AMY GOODMAN: Who did you sue?

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: -- that, actually, there¹s many more people want the
freedom to communicate, as long as it¹s not blasphemous and destructive in a
rotten way of other people, in other words, racist. I mean, those cartoons,
for instance, that have shocked us all were racist. They were fascist in
character, the cartoons of the Prophet with a bomb on his head. I mean,
that's a very rightwing paper, Jyllands-Posten, and it¹s not surprising that
they published those cartoons as a sort of provocation. We have got these
sort of fascist kind of things happening in the world, and we don't need any
more of them.

      However, the play, because the New York Theatre Workshop canceled,
there¹s a producer in London, and it¹s going to open in London at a major
West End theater, My Name Is Rachel Corrie, and the press night¹s March the
28th. So, while every attempt has been made to suppress by governments, I
think we¹ve got that reminder of what Shakespeare said, ³The truth will
rise, though all the earth o¹erwhelm it, to men's eyes.²

      AMY GOODMAN: Vanessa Redgrave, the last time we saw you was in New
York. You had come with a delegation, and you were headed to Washington
speaking out about the detainees at Guantanamo. You were with your brother,
Corin, as well, I believe, Moazzam Begg¹s father --

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: Mr. Azmat Begg, and the lawyers of some of the
European prisoners in Guantanamo.

      AMY GOODMAN: Moazzam Begg has since been released, but many others
remain. What has come of the movement that you have helped to found?

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: Well, we were just a small hard-working part of it.
Those lawyers everywhere, not only the wonderful American lawyers, like the
Center for Constitutional Rights, like the American Civil Liberties Union,
but many, many big firms have poured in to assist, because they are so
horrified at what is being done in Guantanamo Bay, and the same is true, I
would say, in a different way here in England, because we not only had a
whole number of U.K. citizens in Guantanamo Bay, but we still have British
families who have got U.K. fathers, brothers, sons, who are held in
Guantanamo. So we have a particular responsibility to free them.

      Long, long ago we said, ³If they have done anything wrong² -- this is
what Moazzam¹s father said, ³If he has done anything wrong, let him be
brought back and tried here in the U.K.² But, of course, they hadn't done
anything wrong at all, and Guantanamo Bay was an interrogation center where
torture is practiced, and when they went on hunger strikes starting last
August -- I think there¹s only two or three left now, they were force-fed
and force-feeding is a torture, too, and it¹s despicable that, in my view,
that our government, the British government, has been complicit in these men
being seized in the first place and then rendered from wherever to
Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo.

      AMY GOODMAN: Have you seen Moazzam Begg since he has come home?

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: Oh, yes, of course. Yes, and we¹ve marched together
with the mothers and sisters and wives of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

      AMY GOODMAN: Cherie Booth, the wife of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair,
has spoken out against torture. What is your response to that?

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: To what? Torture or --

      AMY GOODMAN: To her, the wife of the Prime Minister of Britain
speaking out. Does that surprise you?

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: Well, she¹s saying the right thing, but you know,
it¹s not quite the issue. She has the right, and she has exercised that
right to say her mind. I haven't read that she said this, but I believe you,
anyway. She is a human rights Q.C. practicing in the bar. She would adhere
to human rights law, but we have this phenomenon in which a very strange
language is being used that is the product of brains that have convinced
themselves that the United Nations is an impediment in our times, that
international human rights law is an obstacle, that Amnesty International,
that the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, that even the High
Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbor, that magnificent Canadian who
presided over the Rwanda war crime tribunal and also Yugoslavia, that these
are ³pressure groups,² was the word used by our Home Secretary in August,
and are transmitting and fueling a xenophobia in Britain with various
statements that are made to certain media that can be absolutely counted
upon for front-page xenophobic alarms, and so on and so forth. It¹s a very,
very bad time.

      The good thing is that there's more support for Amnesty International,
for Human Rights Watch, for our own U.K. civil liberties organization, which
is called Liberty, than there has ever been before, ever, ever, ever before.

      AMY GOODMAN: Vanessa Redgrave, you also have been focusing on the
issue of Chechnya, and you have made a film, Voices of Dissent. Can you talk
about that?

      VANESSA REDGRAVE: Yes, well, this is a 47-minute documentary, based
primarily on an extraordinary Soviet dissident, an absolutely heroic guy
called Vladimir Bukovsky, who was one of the young people in the 1960s who
were inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as was Nelson
Mandela, as was Martin Luther King. And that generation of young Soviet
people who campaigned for human rights in the Soviet Union were sent to
gulags, they were beaten up in the K.G.B. cells, that¹s the old Soviet
intelligence services, for those young people of today who don't know what
that was, and who were sent to the infamous Secret Services psychiatric
prisons, where they were tortured both physically and psychologically. And
it was thanks to Amnesty that a number of these dissidents, including
Vladimir Bukovsky, were saved and brought out.

      So, through the voices of dissidents and of Russians today, and also
Mr. Zakayev, who lives here and who has political asylum here in the U.K.
and who was the main representative of the former president, Maskhadov, who
was murdered by the Russian special forces in Chechnya last year, we tell in
47 minutes, thanks to Bukovsky and Mr. Zakayev and some of these wonderful
Russians, we hear their view of today and how today happened and that the
war against Chechnya was used to bring the real old K.G.B. secret services
and the military and intelligence back into power both in the Kremlin and in
the army and in business and even in culture, and the war in Chechnya helped
that to happen. 

AMY GOODMAN: Vanessa Redgrave, Oscar Award-winning actor, speaking to us at
her home last night in West London.

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