"Art and Politics" - an interview with Eric Strange
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An interview with Eric Stange,
producer and director of
Children of the Left.
By MANAVENDRA K. THAKUR
ERIC STANGE IS A SOFT-SPOKEN MAN who began his filmmaking career only recently. He is 35 years old, a Cambridge resident, and he has written for The Boston Herald. He also has worked as a freelance writer and published articles, usually about "the intersection of art and politics," in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and The Independent (London). He attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and went to graduate school in journalism at Boston University.
The following are condensed excerpts from an telephone interview with him on a recent Sunday morning.
Q. What were your reasons for making this documentary film, and what led you to filmmaking in general and documentary films in particular?
I wanted to make a film, a documentary, about leftist American politics. I wanted to find a new way of looking at leftist American politics [to make it more accessible] and get around the reactions you get [when you mention communism].
I'm a... newcomer to the documentary world, and it's very expensive to make documentary films, even on video. I have been a print journalist for 10 years, but about four years ago, I decided to try this other medium, which is much more powerful. It has more powerful, more potent images. I find documentaries an intriguing way to do journalism. [As for feature filmmaking,] documentaries are obviously cheaper.
Q. What are your previous film projects?
The Pitch of Grief is a 30 minute film I made in 1985. [The film looks at how four people deal with the death of a close relative.] I've done additional projects for hire.
Q. In Children of the Left, your film only touches on how political views can flip-flop or remain the same after two decades.
A. I wish I had more time to talk about these people now. I am now writing a six-part series about the 1960s for PBS.
Q. Your film stresses the personal and human side of the red diaper babies. Do you think this approach might limit the type of topics you can tackle?
A. I think you could do something about abortion in the same way. I would be interested in doing a long interview with anti-abortion people to show where these strong feelings come from. I'm not really interested in issues that don't have an emotional component. It's how emotions connect with those issues that interests me.
Q. What limitations do you find in making documentaries for television?
A. You have to make things that will fit their [PBS'] parameters. I wish I could have made it [Children of the Left] an hour and 40 minutes. It would be a more thoughtful and enlightening documentary. But where would I show it? I think most stories can be told in an hour. I don't feel horribly crippled. This film is a television documentary, a genre to itself.