Filmmaker Jonathan Demme Releases Carter Biopic

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Director Jonathan Demme

hide captionDirector Jonathan Demme's latest project is a film about Jimmy Carter.

Brad Barket/Getty Images

Throughout his three-decade career, Academy-award winning director Jonathan Demme has worked both in feature films — Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia — and documentaries — including films about Neil Young and the Talking Heads.

Demme's latest project is a documentary film about former President Jimmy Carter. Demme followed Carter around the country as he promoted his controversial book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

Demme talks about his life in filmmaking and takes listener questions.

'Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains'

Jimmy Carter

hide captionControversy greeted the use of the freighted word "apartheid" in the title of Jimmy Carter's latest book.

Alex Cohn/Real Peace Productions, Inc./Sony Pictures Classics
  • Director: Jonathan Demme
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

At the outset of Jonathan Demme's documentary, former President Jimmy Carter talks about the Georgia farmland that's been in his family for generations, and about how he'd feel if someone tried to take it from him. The moment initially seems disconnected from what follows, but it turns out to be a fine setup for the controversy in which Carter is soon embroiled.

At the center of that firestorm: Carter's 21st book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, in which the possession of and control over land is very much the point. It's the final, provocative word of that title — "apartheid" — that starts the fuss.

As Demme follows Carter on a book tour, in which he's queried by a host of show hosts (Tavis Smiley and NPR's Terry Gross and Diane Rehm among them) — plus everything from long lines of enthusiastic book-buyers to vitriolic rabbis heading angry crowds — we hear what seems like every possible permutation of the arguments surrounding the former president's choice of words, and of subjects.

Though Carter is articulate to the point of eloquence, this is arguably too much of a good thing.

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