"THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT," AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, DEBUTS SEPT. 29, EXCLUSIVELY ON HBO; MARTIN SCORSESE AND DAVID TEDESCHI DIRECT
Directed by Oscar(R) winner Martin Scorsese and longtime documentary collaborator David Tedeschi, THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT profiles the provocative and influential publication The New York Review of Books, and its charismatic and indefatigable founding editor, Robert Silvers, who, along with co-editor Barbara Epstein (who passed away in 2006), has guided the Review since its launch in 1963. The documentary debuts MONDAY, SEPT. 29 (9:00-10:45 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
Other HBO playdates: Sept. 29 (3:45 a.m.) and Oct. 2 (8:00 a.m., 3:15 p.m.), 5 (1:45 p.m.), 8 (4:00 p.m., 12:35 a.m.) and 11 (9:45 a.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Oct. 1 (8:15 p.m.), 9 (2:00 p.m.), 14 (11:00 p.m.) and 19 (10:50 a.m.)
THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT marks Scorsese's third documentary to be presented on HBO, and Tedeschi's first co-directing project with Scorsese. Produced by Margaret Bodde, David Tedeschi and Martin Scorsese through the filmmaker's Sikelia Productions banner, their previous HBO collaborations include "Public Speaking" and the Emmy(R)-winning "George Harrison: Living in the Material World."
Weaving together rare archival material, original vérité footage filmed in the Review's West Village offices, contributor interviews and portraits by celebrated photographer Brigitte Lacombe, along with excerpts from the work of iconic writers, THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT illustrates the depth and scope of the paper, which continues to thrive today.
Confrontation and intelligent argument are in the publication's DNA. "When we started the paper, we weren't seeking to be part of an establishment," confides Silvers, recalling the early days of the Review. "We were seeking quite the opposite, we were seeking to examine the workings and truthfulness of establishments, whether political or cultural. As long as we could pay the printer, we could publish anything we wanted, and no one could stop us."
Notes Scorsese, "I have learned so much over the years from The New York Review of Books - it's given me so much that I jumped at the chance to make this film. And David and I both welcomed the challenge of making a film that reflected what is so unique about the Review, really, a film about the adventure of thought, and, as Colm Toibin puts it, the sensuality of ideas. I hope we succeeded."
"The Review has such a venerable history, but what truly amazes me is how they engage with the world today," says Tedeschi. "Shortly after we finished the film, the CIA officially joined Twitter, and the Review responded by tweeting throughout the day excerpts from articles on the CIA black sites, on torture. That confrontational impulse is something we wanted to capture in the film."
With history as the backdrop, this examination of the establishment is woven throughout THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT. Mary McCarthy travels to Saigon during the Vietnam War to argue against the American presence there. Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer battle over feminism. Michael Greenberg chronicles the anger and frustration of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Joan Didion reads from her searing article about youths wrongly convicted in the 1989 Central Park Jogger case.
Among the other notables also featured in interviews and archival footage are: W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, Mary Beard, Ian Buruma, Michael Chabon, Noam Chomsky, Mark Danner, Yasmine El Rashidi, Jason Epstein, Timothy Garton Ash, Stephen Jay Gould, Elizabeth Hardwick, Vaclav Havel, Zoe Heller, Jennifer Homans, Robert Lowell, Avishai Margalit, Daniel Mendelsohn, Darryl Pinckney, Oliver Sacks, Andrei Sakharov, Susan Sontag, Colm Toibin and Derek Walcott.
The passion for truth and intellectual freedom that first inspired Silvers and Barbara Epstein to create the publication has endured throughout its history. "Magazines don't change the world, but they shape a certain kind of climate of ideas," says contributor Avishai Margalit. "There is a metaphor: Influence goes like the knight in chess, one move straight, and then diagonally. It doesn't go in straight lines." Consistently holding an exacting mirror to "the establishments" of the time, The New York Review of Books has revealed the power of ideas to shape history.
THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT is an HBO Documentary Films presentation; a production of BBC Arena, Sikelia Productions and WOWOW in association with Verdi Productions and Magna Entertainment; edited by Paul Marchand and Michael J. Palmer; cinematography by Lisa Rinzler; portraits by Brigitte Lacombe; supervising producer, Mikaela Beardsley; executive producer for BBC Arena, Anthony Wall; executive producers for WOWOW, Hajime Hashimoto and Kayo Washio; executive producers, Chad and Michelle Verdi and Joshua Sason; produced by Margaret Bodde, David Tedeschi and Martin Scorsese; directed by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi.