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Axis of Evil: Perforated Praeter Naturam (2004)

AXIS OF EVIL is an experimental-feature-documentary-essay that features interviews with sixteen artists, scholars, and activists, including Howard Zinn, Daniel Ellsberg, Bernardine Dohrn, ... See full summary »

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(essay "Angel of Evil"), (narration)
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Credited cast:
James Barnhart ...
Himself
Jane Bohman ...
Herself
James J. Brask ...
Himself
Bernardine Dohrn ...
Herself
...
Himself
Fisal M. Hammouda ...
Himself
J.B. Ketterson ...
Himself
Peter Kuttner ...
Himself
Warren Leming ...
Himself (narrator) (voice)
Martha Nussbaum ...
Herself (as Martha C. Nussbaum)
Gerhard Schutte ...
Himself
Geoffrey R. Stone ...
Himself
Jim Swanson ...
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Craig Vetter ...
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Floyd Webb ...
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AXIS OF EVIL is an experimental-feature-documentary-essay that features interviews with sixteen artists, scholars, and activists, including Howard Zinn, Daniel Ellsberg, Bernardine Dohrn, Martha Nussbaum, and others, talking about the concept of evil, its usefulness as a framework for US foreign policy, and evils that they've encountered in their lives. The interviews are illustrated with postage stamp art, archival footage, and other elements that interact with, illustrate, and comment on the statements of the interviewees. It's a unique and well-suited approach to the idea of evil. The film is different from the slew of Bush-bashing documentaries that are flooding media outlets. Because it's about the idea of evil, it goes way beyond Bush; major topics covered include racism, war, Vietnam, criminal justice, capital punishment, and of course the Axis of Evil. It's a reasoned discussion of evil, not a polemic, and the cutting-edge stamp art makes it unlike anything else out there. Written by Michael W. Phillips Jr. and Carmine Cervi

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28 December 2004 (USA)  »

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Against the rhetorical use of "evil"
8 January 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Chicago's BulletProof Film, producers Jim Swanson, Ilko Davidov, and Warren Leming (who narrates and composes) and director Carmine Cervi (plus a list which reads like a Who's Who of American activism) have all come together under the rubric "Axis of Evil" to produce one of the more extraordinary documentary essays yet seen.

The Axis of Evil project grew out of a book of stamp art of the same name. The graphics used in the film come directly from the book of stamp art and are stunning examples (from around the globe) of political satirical art. The DVD was designed by Carmine Cervi and Eric Burton- who did a superlative job bringing printed material to life on the screen. The extras on the DVD are packed with stamp art, histories of stamp art, and other hidden gems.

Those interviewed for the documentary include the historians Daniel Ellsberg and Howard Zinn; the former Weather Underground leader Bernadine Dohrn, In These Times editor/ publisher James Weinstein, video activists Peter Kuttner and Floyd Webb, and the University of Chicago's Martha Nussbaum and Law School and ACLU member Geoffrey Stone. Physicist John Ketterson and sociologist Gerhard Schutte weigh in on the side of liberal science. There are outstanding interviews with political scientist and Vietnam veteran and scholar James Brask, and historian and Fullbright scholar James Barnhart. Lawyer and anti death penalty advocate Jane Bohman does a thoughtful job of presenting the case against capital punishment. Fisal M. Hammouda, is a Muslim activist and consultant, and an advocate of inter faith relations, whose analysis of the current situation between Islam and the Western world is of significant interest.

To do justice to the range and depth of the film would be difficult. Axis of Evil mixes music, historical film footage, analysis, graphic art and narration to present the case against the rhetorical use of "evil" as a State sponsored method by which the "enemy" is demonized. The use of "evil" has itself proved to be an evil: and the documentary offers compelling evidence that the concept is both outmoded and harmful when applied to State sponsored propaganda.

The State promoted concept of Evil provides the basis for a media driven terrorism, whose rhetoric produces real Terror. The Bush administration has led the way in promoting a Good vs. Evil -Us vs. Them- media climate in the United States. Their campaign has been largely successful, but for independent media ventures like this one. There have been few voices allowed a platform in opposition. The film examines the marginalization of dissent in the U.S. and the negative effects this produced globally.

We stand at an historical cross roads in the United States. The real causes of the 911 debacle come in for consideration within the documentary, which also considers the evidence for" Blow Back" so skillfully outlined by former CIA scholar/analyst Chalmers Johnson. Berset by a foreign war, which was both ill-advised, ill-planned and fraudulently sold to an unwitting public, the U.S. has suffered a series of alarming insults to its prestige and power. Currently overseen by an Administration which has proved itself capable of setting aside both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the "interests of its citizens" we now begin to see the full dimensions of what may prove to be the end of a long Post War period of American dominance and the beginnings of a significant National decline.

The lack of any self-examination, and the inability to ask the hard questions that the media should be asking, produced this extraordinary piece of media analysis, and historical anecdote. Writer Craig Vetter's poignant account of his father's death in the South Pacific during the Second World War is a compelling reminder that the U.S. has a long history which remains terra incognita. Activist Jim Swanson (executive producer) gives a detailed account of America's "Penal Colony" and the damage done when a Society chooses to punish rather than prevent.

Axis of Evil is an astounding piece of work and is all the more compelling for being one of the few pieces of analysis and advocacy available at a time when the U.S. stands in desperate need of some thinking that goes beyond the corporate platitudes of Info-Tainment. As citizens, not consumers, and as participants, not couch potatoes, we need more of what Axis of Evil has done: presented an unvarnished look at the United States in what may be the most crucial period of its history, ever.

-Garrett Ewing


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