Occupy Hollywood: The Whittaker Chambers movie
It’s time for a movie about Whittaker Chambers.
I have just launched a page on Kickstarter.com, which is a website where people can post projects and attract potential donors. My project is a documentary about Whittaker Chambers, the great anti-communist, spiritual sage and author of “Witness,” a classic of Western literature. We have roughly 50 days (Kickstarter has a time limit on projects) to raise $20,000.
Chambers is a conservative hero, although his story goes beyond politics. In 1948 he famously fingered government official Alger Hiss as a communist, and the subsequent trial, the Chambers-Hiss case, was arguably the most important trial in modern American history. The story is ideal for film. It has thrills, espionage, intellectual debates, trial scenes and even a subtext of homosexuality. It’s the greatest American drama to have never made it to the screen.
We all know the reasons “Witness” has not been made into a movie. “The simple fact is that when I took up my little sling and aimed at Communism, I also hit something else,” Chambers once wrote. “What I hit was the forces of that great socialist revolution, which, in the name of liberalism, spasmodically, incompletely, somewhat formlessly, always in the same direction, has been inching its ice cap over the nation for two decades. … [T]hough I knew it existed, I still had no adequate idea of its extent, the depth of its penetration or the fierce vindictiveness of its revolutionary temper, which is a reflex of it struggle to keep and advance its political power.”
Matt Damon is not going to green-light this project.
Which means it’s up to us conservatives — and liberals and others of goodwill and honesty who want to see this important American story told. As you can see from my Kickstarter page, I am looking for $20,000 to make this documentary. In the America that is Obamaville, this is a lot of money. In Hollywood, and frankly in some conservative circles, it’s a rounding error. But conservatives have not been known to support the arts or artists — The New Criterion and David Koch’s love of opera notwithstanding. The money will go towards upgrading my film and editing equipment, the short-term contract for a university colleague who is a professional documentary filmmaker, travel expenses for a one-day shoot in New York, and promotional and other expenses. Most of it can be shot in Washington, where I live. If there is an explosion of interest and generosity and we shoot well past our mark, we’ll be able to do even more.
I have been a conservative writer for over a decade and know every corner and alleyway in D.C. where Chambers went while he was spying for the Soviets. It’s important to get these places on film while they still exist. If liberal educators have their way, in 50 years no kid will know who Whittaker Chambers was. Actually, make that in 20 years. Or 10.
It’s also important to create something beautiful, subtle and long-lasting. Conservative filmmakers have not been known for their subtlety, as much as I love “300” and the fulminations of some Mel Gibson movies. “Witness” is indeed a story of clashing ideologies. The scenes where Chambers has defected from the communist underground and is evading potential assassins are harrowing, and will lend themselves brilliantly to film. But it is also the story of a soul. Chambers was a warrior, yes, but one who was a farmer who became interested in the Quakers. He also warned not only about communism but about any ideology that attempted to negate any meaning in human suffering. He warned William F. Buckley about making common cause with Senator Joe McCarthy, whom he was convinced would overreach and hurt the genuine cause of anti-communism. The film will feature interviews with key players and scholars of the case.
In short, we don’t want to make “Left Behind II: Tribulation Force.”
The name of my production company is Right Hammer Films. When I was growing up, I loved watching horror movies made by the Hammer Studio, a British company. Hammer filmed a lot of its movies in a single house, Down House on the Thames River. It produced great films on small budgets. Hammer Studio should be the model for conservative filmmakers: start small, fund artists instead of hacks, and tell great stories. There is no greater story than “Witness.”
For now, it all hinges on us. We either need someone to write a big check or a bunch of people to write small ones (say, 200 people donating $100). It could be great, it could be fun, and it could drive the left nuts.
On the other hand, we could leave art to the liberals and documentaries to Michael Moore.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.