Editor's note: This is part two in a two-part series. Part one is available here.
KW: I think your film may actually have a unique distinction of being the most successful film to ever get an “F” from Entertainment Weekly. Do you think that their critic even watched the film or some of these critics?
JS: No. I don’t think they did. They came in with their own pre-conceived bias on where they’re going to go. I don’t think that then even engaged the arguments of the film. I’ve been in Hollywood for a long time and it’s very much that little triangle of that area of the world and that’s kind of it. I don’t think they engaged. And that is what I always find interesting… like thatcReviewer… actually called the film “racist.”
KW: Owen Glieberman [of Entertainment Weekly]?
JS: Yes, I think he’s the one. Gerald Molen responded to that and it’s hard when someone like Dinesh, who is an Indian. How do you throw that label around? It demonstrated to me the shallowness of the reviewer, in the fact that they’d so throw that around so quickly. [T]his is kind of their territory of where they just kind of p*ss on it and it didn’t work. People were throwing that off and we actually addressed that early in the film. That was something that Dinesh wanted to address right away [in the film].
KW: You have to. For the audience’s sake.
JS: Yes. [Dinesh] says, “Look. I’ll hold up my hand, Reverend Jackson” after he is debating Reverend Jackson. “We are the same. Nobody could tell us [apart] just by our hands. And so, we’re both in that Brown category. We just see the world differently.”
KW: With documentaries, many filmmakers struggle at times with deciding if a scene or part of a scene is propaganda or advocacy or legitimately should be part of a film. What was your process of working it out for yourself in 2016? Making sure that this is a documentary, that we’re telling a story. We’re not advocating, we’re not making propaganda. Because every filmmaker is different. Michael Moore has his things, but we all have to make decisions in the editing room.