Buchanan TV Ad Angers Filmmaker


Documentary filmmaker Marlon Riggs has reacted angrily to the use of his film, “Tongues Untied,” as the backdrop in a campaign ad for Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan now running in Georgia.

Riggs made the film about black gays in 1989 after being awarded a $5,000 grant from a regional fellowship program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. “Tongues Untied” aired last July as part of the PBS series “POV” (Point of View), which also received NEA funds.

In the ad, a scantily dressed black man wearing studs moves in slow motion while text and an off-screen voice allege that President George Bush “enlisted our tax dollars in pornographic and blasphemous art too shocking to show.”

Riggs said he saw Buchanan’s use of his film as an attack on blacks and gays. “I think it’s absurd to the point of being grossly offensive. What Buchanan’s ad shows is that there are no rules to having a civilized discussion. They’ve used lying, distortion and misappropriation,” said Riggs, who lives in Oakland and teaches at UC Berkeley.


Riggs added that “there are obvious comparisons” between the use of his film and the 1988 campaign ad criticizing candidate Michael Dukakis for the Massachusetts early furlough program that released convicted rapist Willie Horton.

Representatives of PBS and the NEA also decried Buchanan’s strategy. Mary Jane McKinzen, director of national press relations at PBS, said: “It’s unfortunate that the ad presents images out of context. It’s ironic that the film addresses the issue of tolerance.” NEA spokesman Josh Dare, citing earlier controversial NEA grants to Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe, said it was another example of grants being “taken out of context and misreported.”

Georgia’s primary is March 3, a week before the critical Super Tuesday primaries in five Southern states. Jerry Woodruff, a spokesman for the Buchanan camp, said the low-budget campaign is pinning its hopes on Georgia as a springboard for other Southern primaries.

“If we do well in Georgia with the ad, we hope to do well in the rest of the South and some of the Western primaries,” he said.