Exclusive OpEdNews Interview with Director/Producer Patty Sharaf
My guest today is filmmaker Patty Sharaf. Her latest film is Murder, Spies & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story. Released earlier this year, MSVL already won Best Documentary at the New Jersey Film Festival. It has all the ingredients of a blockbuster – a whistleblower, corruption in high places, a suspicious suicide, a dash of espionage, election fraud, an intrepid journalist amid corporate media silence, and democracy itself in peril – plus the Added Scariness Factor that it’s all true! Welcome, Patty.
Let’s start with Clint Curtis. What initially intrigued you about him?
I like a story that reveals a person's strength of character while being roiled by larger forces, a person with agility and presence of mind to face difficult situations. Here was a Republican computer programmer who was asked to make software to rig voting machines. By the third act, Curtis is running for Congress as a Democrat. I'm sure he never saw that coming.
Tell us how MSVL came about
In January 2005, my film, "Citizen Stan" was at the Freedom Cinema Festival in Park City, a kind of alternative festival that ran parallel to Sundance. They had a panel where blogger, Brad Friedman, interviewed Clint Curtis, about the vote-rigging software he had created for Florida State Rep. Tom Feeney [who later made the top 20 list of most corrupt members of Congress].
This was when I first heard Curtis's story; afterwards, I made a bunch of calls to my contacts in the news business. I thought they would be all over this story. But while TV and print reporters were interested at first, they would not report on it. As I saw Curtis’s testimony slip through the cracks, I felt obligated to film him and Brad and to get Clint’s story on tape. Their next meeting took place in April 2005, when they attended a national election reform conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
We shot the Brad/Clint interview well after midnight, two cameras in a darkened room. My husband, John Sharaf, is a longtime news DP (Director of Photography), and I am a soundwoman; we both have masters from UCLA film school and work in news production. That night in Nashville, the style was "sixty-minutes-noir". The next few days, we stayed and covered the conference. With the help of some special people, I showed the interview around, hoping to get backing to finish a film.
How did potential backers react to that interview?
Everyone was shocked; it was powerful material. Then, they wished us luck. Mainly, I think they feared the liability. Curtis was making scandalous accusations about politically powerful people with deep pockets.
We finally partnered with the gutsy and visionary Earthworks Films. Just before the 2006 election, we pulled off a limited release we called Truth In the Booth, which you reviewed at the time. But our plan was always to finish a longer film, and we kept slogging away.
What is MSVL’s message?
It bothered me that, in 2004, people disturbed by the gaping exit polls and armed with PHD statisticians could be dismissed as conspiracy theorists, that the mainstream news outlets wouldn't even entertain the possibility of election fraud. In making this film, we hoped to alert the audience that electronic voting could be a sham, and that we need to restore checks and balances to counting the vote.
The disturbing picture Curtis paints of a corrupt Congressman, the suspicious circumstances of Inspector Lemme's death, and even the family dog getting shot are the reasons this story gets under your skin. This film is effective because next time you meet up with a touch screen voting machine, you're gonna think Freddy Krueger is in the room.
What kind of feedback have you gotten so far?
Audience response has been terrific! The first thing most people say is, “Why haven’t I heard about this before?” So I'm glad they finally heard about it because of us.
The festival circuit reviews have also been very favorable. I was very flattered to have Al Jazeera's Riz Kahn do a half-hour TV show in response to the movie, right before the election. His show is watched all over the world; my website got hits from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, China, and Australia.
Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
That the problem with electronic voting machines didn't go away with Obama's victory. His landslide and the incredible efforts of thousands of citizen- watchdogs saved us. I would also throw in this little-known fact. On November 3rd, mere hours before the polls opened, Mike Connell testified, under oath, at his deposition about his role in the bogus 2004 Ohio vote count. Connell was Karl Rove's IT guru. The timing couldn't have been better.
The bottom line is: we were royally hoodwinked by the Help America Vote Act that led to our investing in these electronic voting machines. We deserve better. Paper ballots are the only way to go.
Speaking of Mike Connell, how does his sudden death tie in?
As you know, Connell was killed in a mysterious solo plane crash last Friday night. How convenient this is for Karl Rove and George Bush! Connell was starting to spill the beans. We have learned that Rove wanted Connell to take the fall for the criminal enterprise known as Bush's election victory. To have this happening right before our eyes, all but unnoticed by the media, is just like 2004, when the press ignored the exit polls. The New York Times , ABC News, even the Huffington Post , all covered Mike Connell's demise so superficially. If it weren't for Velvet Revolution, Bradblog, and Raw Story , we would have no understanding of the significance of this man's demise. What a travesty!
Ohio attorney Cliff Arnebeck is featured in my film. He has been trying to discover why, on the night of the 2004 presidential election, Ohio's vote tabulation had to run through a server in Tennessee before being officially reported. That server, operated by Connell in Chattanooga, also housed Rove's missing White House email accounts, and a long list of neo-con websites. Do you smell a rat?
Back in July, Arnebeck sought protection for Connell and his family. But nothing was done, and the man is now dead. Will we ever find the missing White House emails that could damn George W. Bush and Karl Rove to hell, or at least the federal penitentiary for conspiring to steal elections and subvert the justice department?
This makes Watergate look like child's play.
Wow! Thank you for speaking with me, Patty. I wish you great success in getting your film of Curtis’s story more widely circulated.
Watch the terrific Al Jazeera interview with Clint Curtis and Brad Friedman in its entirety, see the trailer for MSVL, and get the DVD at VotingLies.com.