This past February, we were involved with putting on an event on the DU Campus featuring a screening of the excellent and hilarious film Courting Condi, along with an audience Q and A with Director Sebastian Doggart and a debate on the topic “Should Condoleezza Rice be indicted for war crimes?” It was a smashing success (for footage of the debate go here).
Doggart is back with a full-length documentary entitled American Faust: From Condi to Neo-Condi. The film will be making its world premiere right here in Denver, at the Starz Denver Film Festival, where it has been nominated for the Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary.
Many thanks to Sebastian for agreeing to the following wide-ranging interview regarding American Faust. Expect a review of the film within the next week or so, and be sure to see the film when it’s in Denver. You can find the trailer for the film here.
CPV: Why did you choose to make a film about Condi? What was unique or interesting about her story as compared to someone like Bush or Cheney, who are arguably more ‘obvious’ subjects for a fllm?
SD: Bush and Cheney have been popular whipping boys for filmmakers like Michael Moore, Robert Greenwald and Oliver Stone. But Rice’s story has not been properly told. She has been very good at flying beneath the radar. She once said, “I want to leave office without anyone knowing where I stand on any of the issues.” That was reason enough to make the film. Her background, her motivations, and her dreams and demons are far more complex than Bush and Cheney’s. Her life story, from an only child in segregated Alabama to becoming the most powerful woman of the world, is a great American Dream story, and the tragic way it has unfolded makes her the dark side of the Obama narrative.
CPV: Why did Faust appeal to you as an analogy for Rice?
SD: We use the story of Faust, the man who traded his soul to the devil for personal gain, as a framing device for telling Rice’s story. Faust is the most famous over-achiever in literature, and Rice is the greatest over-achiever in modern US politics. Like Faust in the face of Mephistopheles, Rice confronted and succumbed to a number of temptations which pitched her personal ambition against the values she had learned from her father and her Christian faith. She switched from Democrat to Republican when senior Hoover Institution conservatives promised her that, as an African American woman, she could go all the way to the White House. While on the Board of Directors at Chevron, she could have stood up against the human rights abuses of the Ogoni people with which the company was complicit, but she didn’t. She could have chosen not to have supported the war in Iraq, but chose instead to endorse the faulty reasoning behind it and fulfill her ambition of being Secretary of State. She could have drawn the line at using torture, but, in the words of one of our commentators, she “made a pact with the devil to protect the American people.” The missing chapter of this Faustian tale is: what happens to her soul in the end? She’s only 55, and in fine health, so it’s premature to end the story. But here too the myth gives clues. Marlowe and Berlioz send their Fausts to hell. Thomas Mann makes Faust die an agonizing death of madness and syphilis. But Goethe saves Faust when the Lord intervenes to reward Faust’s unending striving. Whether or not God surprises us all by appointing Rice as an angel, the Faust myth has a richly ambiguous parallel that I feel is appropriate.