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TRAFFIC (Best Picture, 2000)
Michael C. Ruppert

My opinion of the movie TRAFFIC is very different from those who have criticized it for not going far enough. Instead of going into the movie to nit pick I went to see what, as a piece of art, it did to the audience and how it differed from the propaganda that this culture has been fed for decades.

I loved the movie.

I have had some experience with filmmakers and films over the years. Big ones. Some of them are subscribers to "From The Wilderness." I understand the difference between art and political agendas. A filmmaker's job is to make art and he is not to be held responsible for correcting all of the social ills in the world. Movies that start from the latter premise almost always fail. Steven Soderbergh took a huge risk with TRAFFIC and it paid off handsomely. The risk was to expose the hypocrisy and futility of the drug war in a context that was reachable for an audience that relies upon Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings for their world view; an audience that frequently must check with someone whether it is alright to express a unique opinion. These are the people who buy movie tickets. These are the people who probably don't have a clue that the CIA deals drugs or that drug money has become a food staple of the U.S. economy.

Forget that the film didn't mention Colombia. Forget that the film showed teenaged girls doing drugs. Forget that the film did not mention the CIA. To satisfy all the bitter critics who complain that the movie should have been made about them instead, or that it should have met all of their personal criteria misses the heart of TRAFFIC and it indicates no knowledge at all about how movies are made. To have satisfied all these arm-chair dilettantes would have resulted in a six hour movie that no one would have watched. It would not have been distributed and the CIA would probably have killed it with one phone call.

The trick is to make a movie that people watch.

I have been around Hollywood a long time and I know these things to be true. Where Steven Soderbergh took a risk was to expose the futility and lunacy of the failed war on drugs. I saw the movie in the jam packed theater at Universal City Studios - the heart of Hollywood. The theater was filled with a rainbow audience, young and old, children who had done drugs and parents who had watched children suffer in courts or with addictions. The audience, in its humanity, breathed and felt as one in a moment of shared logic and recognition. Ex-cop sitting next to gang-banger, sitting in front of grandparents, sitting in front of teen-agers.

The most powerful line in the entire movie was when Drug Czar-designate Michael Douglas resigned at a press conference before even accepting the job and said, "I don't know how to wage war on my own family." The audience heaved a sigh in oneness and recognition that someone had told them a truth they did not expect to hear. It was OK to acknowledge their own feelings. What is so powerful is that the line almost never made it into the movie. Director Steven Soderbergh, according to Patrick Dollard, the Executive Vice President of Propaganda Films Management, said that Soderbergh put the line in at the last minute. For me, it made the movie and for Soderbergh it was the big risk. I was asked by Propaganda Films to review the movie and come in to the office to discuss it. Propaganda also willingly and eagerly took a copy of the tape of my December lecture at USC on "Wall Street's War for Drug Money."

Steven Soderbergh struck a huge chord. He pushed the envelope of art and found a hungry spot in the hearts of audiences that know nothing abut what we do in special interest groups. And by making a really good movie that was also critical about the drug war he made it culturally acceptable and politically correct for people to challenge it in the open. TRAFFIC is for the war on drugs what COMING HOME or M*A*S*H were to Vietnam. And you can almost forget what the "New York Times" and "The Washington Post" want you to believe now. Hollywood took a gamble and it is paying off. The paradigm is shifting and it will not be stopped. A more telling review of TRAFFIC will come as AMPAS (the Academy) considers it among the contenders for Best Picture of the Year.

Never underestimate the ability of grass to grow out between the cracks in the sidewalk. TRAFFIC is that kind of a movie.

Mike Ruppert "From The Wilderness"

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