CPB Names Final 'Crossroads' Contenders

A look at the impact of a neoconservative worldview and the downsides of the Bush doctrine are two of the projects the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has chosen to fund, at least through the development of a production proposal.

Those are two of just-announced picks (23 have already been made) to develop production proposals for its America at the Crossroads initiative, in which CPB will spend up to $20 million "to develop and broadcast films on the challenges and opportunities America faces in the wake of the September 11th attacks."

CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson has been criticized for adding conservative shows to the public broadcasting mix and pushing the administration agenda, but the CPB funded projects for consideration include negative as well as positive takes on the war.

For example, By All Means Necessary, from a pair of Washington, D.C. filmmakers, "Will critically examine how the implementation of the so-called Bush Doctrine has alienated traditional American allies, tarnished America’s image abroad and possibly made the world more dangerous.

Other grantees include a look at the CIA, citizen soldiers, Arab-American comedians, and efforts to transform the military.

“The America at a Crossroads films will examine the most critical and controversial challenges we confront as a nation and offer a wide variety of points of view," said CPB Senior VP, television programming, Michael Pack, in announcing the final grant contenders. "We hope that their broadcast will engage Americans in a national conversation about our country’s changing face at home and changing role in the world,”

The tale of the tape, or course, will be which of the 34 projects are picked for production.

Following are all the grantees, beginning with the 11 newest, and their proposed programs, with final selections expected by the fall (wording is directly from CPB):

African Americans and Islam  (St. Clair Bourne, Tom Miller and Lou Potter, Chamba Mediaworks, Inc., Los Angeles) will examine the effects of 9/11 on the African-American community and its relationship with Muslims, both foreign and domestic.

Behind the Veil in Iran: The Pink Revolution (Elena Mannes and Dina Hossain, Mannes Productions, Inc., New York) Best-selling author Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran) and author Azadeh Moaveni (Lipstick Jihad) will be among those featured in a film that explores the potent and changing roles of women in Iran, showing how women are central to democratic reform in the country.

By All Means Necessary  (Sherry Jones and Christina Lowery, Washington, D.C.) will critically examine how the implementation of the so-called Bush Doctrine has alienated traditional American allies, tarnished America’s image abroad and possibly made the world more dangerous.

The Case for War (Phil Craig and Brian Lapping, Brook Lapping Productions, London) will follow former Defense Department Assistant Secretary in the Reagan Administration, Richard Perle,  to various places around the world as he articulates the neoconservative case for an assertive American foreign policy, interventionist when necessary, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.  

Citizen Soldiers (Calvin Skaggs, Lumiere Productions, New York) will explore the ways in which the war on terror has stretched the U.S. military and required Army reservists to be called into active duty for extended tours of service. The film will follow members of an Army Reserve unit through its deployment and return home to examine the demands on US armed forces and consider the need for change.

Indonesia: Battleground for the Soul of Islam (Kenneth Levis and Calvin Sims, New York Times, New York) will explore Indonesia’s long history of moderation in its practice of Islam, and show how Islamist radicals have made the country a flash point in the global war on terror. The filmmakers will get an inside look at how this fledgling democracy, with its moderate Muslim majority, is struggling to control the rise of religious extremism.  The proposed film will show that how Islam in Indonesia is markedly different from that in the Middle East. What emerges is a potential model for Muslim democracy, if Indonesia can succeed in containing the terrorist threat.

Our Turn at the Mic: Muslim-American Comedians Come of Age (Glenn Baker, Azimuth Media, Washington, D.C.) will explore the emergence of Muslim- and Arab-American comedians after 911, showing how they use their humor to take on stereotypes about Middle Easterners and terrorism. The proposed film will chronicle their humor, and the way it has been shaped by the everyday tribulations of their lives.

Soldiers of the Future (Stephen Ives, Insignia Films, New York) will tell the story of Donald Rumsfeld’s recent efforts to transform America’s military. The film will explore the new military doctrines in the war on terror, and will illuminate the ways in which changing strategies have altered the experience and the expectations of the American soldier. 

The Sound of the Guns (Carl Colby, Colby Films, Inc., Washington, D.C.) will examine the evolution of U.S. counterinsurgency policy through the life of one of its principal architects, former CIA Director William E. Colby.  The film, produced by the late director's son, will trace how policies developed by OSS in WWII and the Phoenix Program in Vietnam are being applied in Afghanistan, Iraq and the global War on Terror.

Studying Hatred (Peter Collier and Dan Gagliasso, Argus Productions, Nevada City, CA) will the examine if and how the 9/11 attacks have created new anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Warriors (Karl Zinsmeister, Washington, D.C., Ed Robbins, New York, and Christian Galdabini, Arlington, Virginia) will profile the men and women who serve in the all-volunteer Army. Producer Karl Zinsmeister reports that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the military is not predominantly populated by the poor and uneducated, but attracts a cross-section of citizens motivated by idealism and patriotism.

Previously announced grantees:

The Anti-Americans (Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker, Center for New American Media, New York) will explore European anti-American sentiment over the past 200 years with an emphasis on contemporary attitudes. The sometimes satiric look will examine the perceptions and misperceptions of some of Europe's leading political, cultural, intellectual and media figures as well as ordinary citizens.

Arab Democrats (Andrew Walworth and David C. Taylor, New River Media, Washington, D.C.; Phil Day, London; and Dr. Joshua Muravchik, AEI, Washington, D.C.) will feature democratic activists and advocates operating in often hostile and dangerous environments in the Arab world. Through their personal stories, the program will follow a select group of activists working to promote democracy in their home countries and examine how United States and international policy affects their efforts.

The Arab Predicament (Zvi Dor Ner and Ben Loeterman, WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston) The Arab Predicament will examine Arab societies to better understand the forces that have stifled the economic growth in the Middle East and undermined people's quest for better life.

Danger Zone (Richard Carlson and Barbara Newman, Foundation For the Defense of Democracies and Tulip Hill Productions, Washington, D.C.)  explores intelligence and special operations efforts to fight terrorism in the United States and worldwide. Part one will offer an in-depth look at MI5 and how it works with US Intelligence and Special Forces, including covert private contractors. Part two will investigate Hezbollah's activities in about a dozen American cities.

The Day We Chose the Future (Paula Apsell, NOVA/WGBH, Boston) will combine a riveting drama, based on scenario planning, with expert interviews, to shed light on the likely choices and decisions that will confront policy makers, first responders, and citizens when responding to a WMD terrorist attack.

Ex-Extremists (Charles Stuart, Stuart Television Productions, Concord, MA and WNPT, Nashville) is a journey into the dark and intriguing world of formerly militant Islamic extremists who have renounced violence and become advocates for reform. These individuals--part of an increasingly vocal minority--are participants in an active debate that is gaining increasing prominence in the Muslim world and beyond.

Feeling at Home in America (Alan and Susan Raymond, Video Vérité, Philadelphia) will be a cinema verité profile of teenagers from a large Arab-American community that explores how the events of September 11th have changed their lives and their sense of identity as Americans.

Islam vs. Islamism (Martyn Burke, Frank Gaffney and Alex Alexiev, ABG Films Inc., Los Angeles) will explore how Islamic extremists are at war with their own faith, and how the consequences of their ambitions and policies devastate the socio-economic potential and well-being of the Muslim world. The filmmakers will follow the stories of several Muslims who have been victimized by the radicals and who are fighting back.

In the Eye of the Beholder: News Coverage of the Middle East (Diana Frank, Michelle Genece, Mindfire Productions, New York) will follow two news teams--one from an Arab news channel, the other from a U.S. news organization--as they report the same event. The film will illuminate how different international audiences hear and see very different accounts of world events.

Inside the American Empire with Robert Kaplan (WETA, Washington, D.C. and 3BM Productions, London) will feature Atlantic Monthly correspondent Robert Kaplan as he travels with U.S. troops who are fighting the war on terror in ways and places unknown to many Americans. Kaplan will travel with the troops as they engage in small-scale, low-intensity conflicts that go largely unreported. He will show how the U.S. military has taken on new humanitarian and intelligence-gathering functions as part of the war on terror.

Invasion! (Timothy Smith and Brian Berger, Docere Palace Studios, LLP, New York, in association with Granada America, New York, and the Washington Post Company, Washington, D.C.)  will examine the art and strategy of military invasion and occupation by looking at historical and contemporary examples of successes and failures with emphasis on the strategies likely to be effective in a post-9/11 world.

Jihad (William Cran and Clive Syddall, Paladin Invision, London) will examine the history and causes of Islamist radicalism.

Masika Al Arabiva El Enteshar Se Amerika (Arab Music Succeeding in America) (Miles Copeland and Jonathan Brandeis, Firstars, Hollywood) will follow a group of popular Arab musicians from their preparations to depart their homeland through their American concert tour to their return to the Middle East. The Arab group will be joined in concert by leading American musicians, and the film will likely be co-broadcast in the U.S. and several Middle East countries.

The Mosque in Morgantown (Brittany Huckabee of Boston) will chronicle the unfolding drama within a Muslim community in small-town West Virginia. The verité-style documentary will follow Asra Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, as she pushes for change at the mosque her father helped to found three decades ago. It will also tell the stories of other mosque members, in their own words, as they work to determine the shape of their religious community.

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (Richard Robbins, PJ Productions, New York and WETA, Washington, D.C.) will bring to the screen the writing of American troops who have served the nation on the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan. The writings - fiction, verse, and letters, essays, memoirs, and personal journals - are being solicited and collected as part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ program, Operation Homecoming.

Picture War (Stanley Nelson, Firelight Media Inc., New York) will explore the power of photography to influence public opinion and foreign policy in wartime as well as shape the historical memory of conflicts, including the war on terror. The film will explore how images have transformed the public's understanding of war, violence and patriotism, from Matthew Brady's Civil War photos to the present day.

Religion in U.S. Prisons (Ginny Durrin, Durrin Productions, Washington, D.C.)
will explore the growing allure of religion in U.S. prisons since the September 11th attacks. The film will explore how the war on terror has transformed the prison population, and how this affects inmates' behavior after they are released into the community.

The Road from Baghdad (David Fanning, WGBH, Boston and Martin Smith, Marcela Gavrina, Rain Media, New York) will explore the chances for democracy throughout the Middle East. Two travelers-one who is optimistic about the chances for regime change, the other who is not-will visit people and places where reform has succeeded, or has proved impossible. In the process, the travelers will try to change each others' views, and those of the audience.

Security Versus Liberty: The Other War (Jennifer Lawson , WHUT, Washington, D.C. and Lisa Zeff, ABC News Productions, New York) will examine the tensions and trade-offs between security and liberty in the post-9/11 world by following several characters enmeshed in the controversy.

Spain's 9/11 (Philip Marlow and Phil Craig, Brook Lapping Productions, London and Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin, the Aspen Institute, Berlin) will examine the two weeks following the train bombing in Madrid commonly referred to as "Spain's 9/11" as described by those closest to the action including former President Jose Aznar. The film will detail how the bombing caused some in Europe to reassess their relations with America, and revealed evidence of the terrorists wider aims.

The Terror Dilemma (Steve Hewlett, MSRM Productions, Washington, D.C. and London) will feature Newsweek's award winning investigative reporters Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball as they follow the terrorist money trail and uncover how extremists have used, and in some cases, abused legitimate Muslim political and charitable groups to finance the spread of Jihad around the globe. The team will explore the dilemmas -- and frequent missteps -- of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials as they seek to distinguish criminal activity from legitimate religious and political expression. The team will use classified documents and meet with sources in both the West and the Islamic world as they show how terrorists seek to expand their global operations.

The Trial of Saddam Hussein (Daniel Polin and Kenneth Mandel, Great Projects Film Company, New York) will give a behind-the-scene view of the pre-trial preparations and trial of Saddam Hussein – events that will test that country's budding justice system, and begin to reconcile Iraq’s legacy of dictatorship, crime, war, and occupation.

The Trouble with Islam (Gordon Henderson, 90th Parallel Films and Television Productions LTD, Ontario, Canada) will feature the internationally best-selling author Irshad Manji, who observes that Islam, under which the world’s most learned and accomplished societies once flourished, closed the door on critical thinking at the end of the 11th century. Manji will meet fellow Muslims in Iran, Lebanon, Yemen and the U.S. who are trying to open those doors.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.