Jesus Was A Commie: Interview With Film-Maker Matthew Modine

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Matthew, thanks for talking to us about your engaging short film, Jesus Was  A Commie. The ideas in the film chime with a lot of my own feelings, divorced from dogma , and are told in a clear, elegant manner, without any preachiness. Can I ask what was the catalyst for this, and its predecessor article, “Oh Commie All You Faithful”?


Thank you. I write for a British monthly called the Finch Quarterly. I enjoying writing because it works the brain and allows for inner frustrations and lifelong observations to be regurgitated. Hopefully, the thoughts you put down have some interest to readers. Avoiding preachiness was a conscious goal during the writing and editing of the film. I worked with my friends Terence Zeigler and Adam Rackoff and they challenged my thoughts and ideas, encouraging me to whittle the words down to the bone. We all need good editors. I’ll be answering your questions without the aide of an editor so I’ll stop now before I over explain!


After a bold opening statement – “He who jumps into the void, owes no explanation to those who stand and watch” (Jean Luc Godard) I like the way the film and your narrated thoughts spin off in different directions, touching on the simplest of statements – “benevolence is a characteristic humanity aspires to”, through to the multiverse and quantum theories, ending up on the essential problem of how do we, as a species, get along, with ourselves and the planet? Obviously these ideas resonate deeply with you in your own life. Do you see the film as an engine for change, albeit a small step?


I think it’s fair to say I’ve been writing this film my whole life. It didn’t just come to me. It gushed out of me. I wrote it down because there was the need in me to share the films ideas with everyone and anyone interested in hearing them. It could be a hundred people or a hundred thousand people. Or one person.


All of the thoughts come from what I have either directly experienced or read about. It is through my experiences with nature I have become a passionate environmentalist. I grew up near small farms and saw them disappear to housing developments. I witnessed the Rocky Mountains tamed by bulldozers. Two lane roads widened into eight-lane highways. I surf and I’ve seen the seawater and so much of the life inside the sea disappear. I studied oceanography and learned reasons why and it makes me cry. I’ve studied astronomy and learned that I will never understand the vastness of the universe and our place in it. And it makes me laugh. What I fully embrace is that we are a miracle in a vast miracle that is unimaginably large, ancient, and mysterious. And I love that. I love that there is something beyond comprehension. I know we are here – and our being here is a miracle. I feel there is no one or no thing that can save us or protect us – nothing but our own evolved, conscious, human(e) efforts. And I know that if we don’t solve the environmental, religious, and economic problems we face really really fast, we are all fucked. We will make hell on earth.

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This is your second (to my knowledge) project with producer Adam Rackoff, who collaborated with you on your Full Metal Jacket i pad app, which you were kind enough to talk about with us before. Did you work with your director Terence Ziegler before this? What was the collaborative process of making this short like?


Yes, Terence and I have worked on several projects. The first short film is “I Think I Thought” which is available on itunes. Terence isn’t just a talented editor, he is a great artist. He is also a humanitarian who uses his gifts of storytelling to help the lives of those less fortunate. It is a pleasure to work with him and I hope we can continue to work together.


The film has won several festival awards. Do you hope to make further short films on subjects close to your heart? What about gun control, a subject on which you wrote about recently?  


I am working on two feature film projects which I wrote. I have also directed two music videos, As Tears Go By and Plastic Jesus both videos feature Ruby Modine

I think it was natural for my daughter to want to be in the arts. As natural as a young person growing up on a farm and wanting to take it over when the time comes. My son, Boman, is also a writer and director. Over the years he has spent hundreds of hours on film sets. He has seen how and what to do and what not to do. I am enjoying watching them both become artists in their own right.


Finally, we all have an idea that the arts, and Hollywood especially, are considered left wing, but does it feel like you are breaking a taboo by talking so openly about Jesus being a revolutionary who can be embraced by all, without “superstitions and doctrine”, and  saying that “communism is just a word” – one that has been misappropriated by flawed thinkers, and is so antithetical to “The American Dream”?


Artists can’t help but be liberal. Liberal means, free. It is liberal thinking that has ended slavery. Liberal minded people have fought for equal rights, fair working conditions. Suffragettes were liberals. Actors are generally liberal minded because we have to get into the skins of people other than ourselves. When you do that, you begin to see that life is the same for most everyone. We all want to be loved and appreciated. We all share similar fears. Similar desires. We all hunger for nourishing food and clean water. We all want to protect our children and have safe homes. These are not left or right desires. These are not desires that are owned or exist in the realms of republican or democratic ideologies. They are universal desires shared by humankind. I am above all, a humanist. I believe in empirical truth arrived at through rational thought. Not mysticism or idolatry or witchcraft. All those brands and names and groups are no more than cliques and clubs. Segregation seeks to divide more than colors of skin. Phrenology wasn’t just measuring the size of individuals skulls. We all bleed red because we are all one people. What we do to the individual we do to the entire race of humans. We need to all work much harder to put more kind in humankind.

Originally posted 2013-02-12 18:06:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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