FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: EDWARD ZWICK
by Michael Chasin Screenwriting Mentor, IAFT/Miami
The primary responsibility of a filmmaker is to return investors’ funds. Making an entertaining film that audiences will pay to see will address that responsibility.
Beyond economics and entertainment, there is another responsibility.
Film’s incredible power to inform and influence demands social responsibility—telling stories that will make viewers think.
A maker of many highly socially responsible films is writer/director Edward Zwick.
Glory (1989) tells the story of the first Union Civil War regiment to be comprised of freed slaves.
Set against this historical backdrop, Glory explores complex relationships between a free African American who joins the regiment, recently freed slaves, and white officers.
The Siege (1998, pre-dating 9/11) presciently sets up terrorist attacks in New York that cause the abandonment of constitutional rights—which, as one character claims, is the true goal of the terrorists.
In Blood Diamond (2006), the exploitation of Africa is an integral part of the plot as a white former mercenary tries to smuggle a diamond out of the continent.
Defiance (2008) dramatized the little known story of a group of Jews who fought for their survival in forests during War World II. A reversal of social strata is dramatized as urban, educated Jews become second in value to the uneducated Jewish criminals who are able to survive in the woods.
As we lose ourselves in watching these films, the difficult choices of the heroes cause us to wonder how we would act in their situations…would our choices be moral…would we act for our own self-interest, or for the greater good…?
Any film that can get viewers to ask such questions of themselves—and others—is indeed a socially responsible film.
Mr. Zwick does this superbly while making it all feel like entertainment.