Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Author's response to comment on news column
There’s further need to set the record straight about the rationale for my views about the film We Are Marshall. Sure enough, the movie gave the MU story a national stage. But just because a story draws interest from sea to shining sea doesn’t set a precedent for distorting what really happened.
Below, a Winston-Salem Journal (NC) reader, who is also a Marshall graduate, commented on a recent newspaper column about the memoir November Ever After.
As the book’s author, I have a response, which follows the reader’s comments.
Kerrie Barnhart wrote:
“We Are Marshall has a runtime of two hours, 11 minutes. The horror of the night of November 14, 1970 took longer than that. There were so many sad, interesting and (eventually) wonderful stories that began that evening, but there's simply no way they could have all been included in a two-hour movie. With all due respect to Mr. Greenlee, nearly five years after the release of "WAM," I just don't understand the animosity about decisions that had to be made for a movie's running time.”
I agree wholeheartedly that there’s only such much content that can be squeezed into a movie that last a little over two hours. The real issue here is not a film’s run time. It’s about making sure that – within the time frame of the movie – that the truth be fully acknowledged.
That’s not too much to ask, especially when you recall this sentence … “This is a true story.” Those words appeared prominently on the screen at the very start of the movie.
The whole focus of the film was to show how a college and a city managed to recover from such a shocking loss. Yet, it’s so strange that the movie never gave much information about the seventy-five passengers who died in that plane crash. If there’s no tragedy, there’s no comeback, and hence, no story line.
No movie, or documentary, or book can be all-inclusive. Not many people will sit through a movie that’s longer than two-and-half hours. Books are no different. How many people will read 500, 800 or 1,000 pages of somebody’s prose?
Here’s the bottom line. The movie was produced as an avenue to pay homage to those who lost their lives on a November night a long time ago. If we’re serious about that, what better way to honor them than to tell it like it really was?
And even if you can’t get every aspect of the story in, it’s no problem. Take the content you have and tell it thoroughly, tell it well, and don’t forsake accuracy for the sake of artistic license.
Are the people from back in the day way off base because they prefer the truth over an altered version of what really transpired? I don’t think so. Let’s just say that it’s so sad that filmmakers are convinced they can improve the truth by improvising.
This story is truly marvelous. There’s no need for alterations.