Transcript: Ep. 2 - In war reporting, Robert Fisk always chooses a side | Nov 12, 2019

ANNOUNCER:
You're listening to
a TVO podcast.
COLIN:
I'm Colin Ellis and you're
listening to On Docs,
a podcast about documentaries
and the stories they tell.

Today I'm speaking with Yung
Chang, the acclaimed filmmaker
whose latest doc,
This is Not a Movie,
happens to be about one of
my favourite journalists
working today, Robert Fisk.
ROBERT:
I think if you watch wars -
and out here you do.
The history, unfortunately,
in the Middle East
is about largely wars.
The making of history,
the construction of politics
is done through violence,
and I think that we're watching
history happen, and you're
telling people about it.
And I think what happens is that
you develop the idea that
the old ideas of journalism that
you got to be neutral
and take nobody's side
is rubbish.
I think as a journalist, you've
got to be neutral and unbiased
on the side of those who suffer.
COLIN:
A little background on Fisk
in case you don't know.
He's interviewed some
pretty notorious people.
He interviewed Osama bin Laden
three times, like literally
sat across from him - nuts!
He's also covered major hotspots
like Northern Ireland
during The Troubles, the
Israeli/Palestinian conflict,
the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan,
and most recently Syria.
I love Fisk for a few reasons.
He's a great writer with
a depth of knowledge about
the Middle East, which is
a rare combination
you don't always get with
other reporters.
Also, there's
no bullshit with him.
He tells you what he thinks and
doesn't claim to be objective,
which is something
we get into in this episode.
So of course when someone
made a doc about him,
I had to speak to them,
and that person happens
to be Yung Chang.
He's directed films on China,
exotic fruits, and now
a conflict reporter, which
prompted the question : why?
YUNG:
It's about a person
who has things to say,
who's collected wisdom
over the years.
And at this dire state of
journalism today,
why not lend an ear to
this character,
someone who is of a...
kind of like a lost
generation of reporters?
COLIN:
And if you like old school,
shoe leather reporting,
he's the genuine article.
So I'm just gonna
leave it at that.
This is me with director
Yung Chang.

Well, Yung Chang, thank you
so much for joining us today.
YUNG:
Thanks for having me.
I appreciate it.
COLIN:
First question off the top:
why a doc about Robert Fisk?
YUNG:
You know, it's... it's a funny
question, and it's sort of
a long-winded story, but I'll
try to keep it very concise.
I've been working on this,
the concision part.
Um... well, you know,
post 9/11...
(Laughing)
Let's go back!
COLIN:
It goes all the way back
to 9/11? Wow.
YUNG:
Let's go back.
Post 9/11, I was
a fine arts student
at Concordia University
in Montreal.
And at the time,
there wasn't a lot of...
there wasn't a lot of writing
that I think
my peers and I felt like
we could connect to.
Sort of like activists,
you know, social justice
activists at the time.
And I think what we gravitated
towards was this website
called Z Magazine, and it was...
this was like-- I actually think
it's a published magazine,
but at the time they also had
a website, and they still do.
And on that website,
they collect the writers of...
all sorts of different
writers and opinions,
people who have ideas
including Chomsky,
and I think Rebecca Solnit
was on there, and Edward Said.
You know, all these writers,
and Robert Fisk.
That's how I first
encountered his writing.
Especially at a time post 9/11
where there was just
so much confusion and...
it felt like misunderstanding
and anger, you know,
and how to kind of... how to
find a way through that.
And it felt like Robert Fisk,
as a foreign correspondent,
was sort of finding a way
to communicate
a sensibility that wasn't really
coming through
in mainstream media.
And... and that was the
connection for me originally.
ROBERT:
I'm a person writing this,
I'm not an agency
tap-tap-tapping away
on a machine.
People say, "Oh, you're
letting off feelings."
Why not? I'm the nerve ending.
I'm not a machine.
What I try to do when
I'm writing,
I try to talk to the reader
like someone they know.
I'm trying to write as if
I'm writing to a friend,
"You won't believe what
I've just seen."
That's the key to getting people
to understand what's going on.
YUNG:
Fast forward to a few years ago
in 2015, 2016,
it landed on my lap.
Anita Lee, the producer,
and Nelofer Pazira, co-producer,
presented a story about
Robert Fisk to me, and...
you know, it'd been a while
since I had connected
to his writing,
and I thought about it,
and had to go and meet
the guy in Beirut.
He lives in Beirut.
He's been there for 40 years.
I know his legacy, I know his...
you know, his accomplishment,
but I wasn't sure about what
his character would be like.
What would it be like to
hang out with this grizzled,
you know, 70-plus-year-old
foreign correspondent
who has a reputation, you know?
Anyone can go online and
you can read about
all sorts of different
things about him.
And I wanted to cut through that
and get to know
the guy actually.
So we went down on a research
trip, and it turned out
he was quite the opposite
of what I expected.
COLIN:
How did he feel about a doc
being made about him?
YUNG:
He felt resistant in
the beginning.
I think he was open to the idea
because it was...
...because he had seen my work,
he had seen my prior work.
So it was-- that was comforting
to know that I wasn't coming in
having to prove myself
as a filmmaker,
but that he respected the work.
So we connected on that level.
We made it very clear,
we set some rules.
One of those rules was
that, you know,
he wasn't gonna hang back
and let me kind of
tell him what to do,
which is often the case
in so-called
observational filmmaking.
You have a little
more collaboration,
a little more control over the
circumstances that may unfold.
Like, you know, just time.
I think one of
the challenges with
documentary filmmaking is that
you usually don't have
the element of... you know,
like you do in fiction,
which is controlling
the pace of things.
And in my experience, you know,
you can slow things down
and like, you know,
ask the subject to kinda,
"Wait, let me set the
camera up," that kinda thing.
COLIN:
Mm-hmm.
YUNG:
In this scenario,
it was not about that.
This was about maintaining
an integrity of truth,
and that meant there was
no slowing down, no stopping.
He was gonna go where he had to
go, and we had to just be on it.
And if we missed it,
we missed it.
That was our rule of...
of filmmaking.
COLIN:
And you know, for people who
don't really know Robert Fisk's
work that well, I mean, you said
you discovered him at Concordia.
I discovered him
in university as well,
and I think I read three
of his books.
YUNG:
Those are mammoth tomes
of like...
COLIN:
Yes, exactly. They're not...
they're not light reading
and not for the faint of heart.
But just tell us a bit about,
I guess, sort of the stories
that he's covered
and what he's been doing
for the last 40 years
of his career.
YUNG:
I mean, his career spans
the entire, you know, formation
I would say of the modern
Middle East.
He began as a journalist in
the early/mid 1970s,
where he was sent to
the Middle East
as a foreign correspondent,
and since then
has covered every major
atrocity, war,
massacre, you name it.
And I think some of
the highlights,
especially for him
as a journalist,
has been the Sabra/Shatila
massacre in 1982.
COLIN:
That was in Lebanon.
YUNG:
In Lebanon.
Every single invasion of Iraq.
He writes-- you know,
he wrote a few books,
and some of them that I would
highlight,
Pity The Nation,
which is a remarkable...
very emotional...
kind of recount of
his experience in Beirut
in the early days
of the war, civil war,
and of course the Israel
invasion of Lebanon,
and the Sabra/Shatila massacre
in the refugee camp in Beirut.
And then continuing onwards,
you know, the only...
then he wrote this huge book.
(Laughing)
COLIN:
The Great War for Civilisation.
YUNG:
The Great War for Civilisation,
and which he tells me,
you know, he doesn't
have an editor.
(Colin laughing)
So the word he ends with is
the word he ends with.
It is like page by page
as it is written.
He's currently
working on a new book
which is a continuation from
Great War for Civilisation,
which is called... tentatively
titled
Night of Power,
which I believe will be
the title of the book.
And he's-- at the time
we started filming,
he was on page 600-something,
and now he's like hit
1,600 pages.
I think it's gonna be like
a two-part, three-part volume.
But you know, he's cut
from that cloth of
the old generation of writers
who just really...
And when you read his writing,
that's the other thing
that's so fascinating.
He's an excellent storyteller.
COLIN:
Yes.
YUNG:
His descriptions are in a way...
I don't know if you would agree
with me, but there's a...
there's a simplicity
to the writing
that's very straightforward.
And through that
straightforwardness,
it comes across
even more emotional.
You know, even though he may
pull back in the amount of...
in the verbs he uses to
describe, you know,
and to kinda put into action
what he's witnessing.
It's very stark, very
stripped-down writing,
which makes it all the more...
like Hemingway, all the more...
you know, hits very close.
COLIN:
Yeah, it's narrative
non-fiction.
YUNG:
It is exactly that.
And there's a point-of-view,
there's a personal point-of-view
that I think makes it...
And this is what made me connect
to it back in the day,
is that it's written so directly
through his commentary.
And I think that matters.
It matters to hear
what somebody's thinking,
or imposing that
sort of point of view
into the writing
I think is crucial.
COLIN:
You mentioned not wanting to do
I guess kind of a...
just a biography of him.
What about exploring issues
related to the Middle East?
Was that of interest
to you as well?
Like using him sort of as like
your point-of-view character
into that region?
YUNG:
That was part of it
in the beginning.
I think what we realized,
and what I realized
as I was embarking on the movie,
is that it would be
very challenging to
adequately summarize -
which is a much-hated
Fisk word -
summarize the... you know,
the Middle East
in a 90-plus minute movie.
It would be almost an insult.
So what I decided to do was
focus more on the theme of
journalism, focus more on
the theme of, you know...
the work he's done and
how he does the work, Fisk.
And that, you know,
I think it just so happens
he got stationed,
or what do you call it?
What's the word?
You know, sent.
You know, he was sent
to the Middle East
as the foreign correspondent
for The Independent.
The Times first,
then The Independent.
But you know, if he
had been sent to China,
he would've become, you know,
the China correspondent
and pursued it
to the nth degree
in terms of his research.
And I think by default,
he landed in the Middle East.
And so I think part of the idea
of the film was that
some of these ideas about
the Middle East would
come into contact through
his journalism in the film,
but we wouldn't necessarily
make it a... you know,
a walk through Robert Fisk's
history of the Middle East,
much rather his journey as
a foreign correspondent.
COLIN:
And the reason he stays
in the Middle East,
I mean, I think he
compares it to like a novel
that he's trying to anxiously
see what's gonna happen next.
ROBERT:
And you sit up, and you say
well, it's almost midnight.
Just one more chapter.
And then you say well,
I'll just read the next chapter
to see what happens next.
WOMAN:
It's a never-ending novel.
ROBERT:
Yeah, it'll go
beyond my lifetime,
but I still want to know
what happens next.
It's a great human tragedy,
and I cannot draw myself away
from seeing what happens next.
(Chattering)
YUNG:
It's a pretty
interesting metaphor!
I mean, one point that
I make very clear is that
I didn't try to make a film
a hagiographic film
that you could just... you know,
fawning over Robert Fisk.
That wasn't really the point.
I myself, when I think about it,
would I ever go on a vacation
with Robert Fisk?
I'm not so sure about that.
But as a person,
because of his mammoth i--
his mammoth presence
as a journalist
and in the history
of journalism is crucial,
you know, that is his legacy.
And I think the point being
that... you know,
in this movie, I think there's
instances in the film,
and mostly shown observationally
or just kind of left in there
like the moment where
he equates the Middle East
as a modern Russian tragedy,
like a Tolstoy type,
War and Peace
type thing.
I mean, it's kind of
a grandiose statement
and slightly could be
insulting to some people,
but that was sort of the point.
You know, like let's
take him at face value.
He is who he is.
He's not necessarily someone
who everyone loves,
and let's... you know,
and he's an older guy of
another generation.
Back in the day, he was...
you know, at the time
he started,
majority of journalists:
white, male journalists.
That was what was
happening at the time.
But somehow, I think
what I respect about him
is his ability to
remain what he feels.
And going back to your point
that he stayed in
the Middle East because
he felt it was important.
"The longer you stay, the more
you know," is what he says.
And I think he has a lot of
things to say about, you know,
journalists who type from
a laptop in New York
and call themselves
foreign correspondence.
I mean, that's a whole other
argument, but I think there is
some justification to that.
Having spent some time with him,
I do think I learned a lot
in his sort of investigative,
on-the-ground journalism,
and how it reveals
in terms of, you know...
what is reported and
what is actually happening
is I think a very
distinct thing he does.
And through his... both as
a columnist and a reporter,
I think it's a distinction
that he's known for.
So yeah, he's like...
just to summarize his character,
you know, I think he's... he's
sort of an irascible type guy,
and... and his integrity
is what drives him.
His integrity for the truth.
And I think that often gets
obfuscated in just...
you know, if you Google him,
you'll see things that come up
that initially,
when I was researching,
I thought I would dive down
into that and meet with people
who felt the opposite of what--
or felt critical of his work.
I realized that
a lot of it was heresy
and not necessarily true,
and you have to actually...
taking a page from
Robert himself, you know,
be on the ground with the guy
to really know how he works
and understand him.
He's not, you know,
"rumours have it", you know.
There's just so much.
And I don't know if it's part of
just the business of journalism,
or foreign correspondence, you
know, but there's a lot of...
people have a lot to say
about him that I realize
are just false,
absolutely false.
And so yeah, that's why I took
a position in the film
that it would be told--
a film through his voice.
We'd stick with him and have him
tell us what he thinks,
and leave it open to criticism.
COLIN:
Yeah. Well, he's not shy
about showing his...
or sharing his view, right?
Like he's very unbalanced and...
YUNG:
Oh, yeah, I mean...
COLIN:
Unbiased. Or sorry,
he doesn't believe--
I guess you can really show
no bias in your reporting.
I wonder, as a filmmaker who
does documentaries,
what do you think of that?
I mean, do you think it's...
do you think journalists should
try to strive for balance
and unbiased journalism, or...
what do you think?
YUNG:
That's a great question,
and I think that...
I mean, let's dive
into this because I think
it's a great piece to discuss
around documentary filmmaking.
I mean, first and foremost
for me, my definition of
documentary filmmaking is
sort of taken from a page
from Grierson, John Grierson,
the founder of the
National Film Board of Canada,
which is the documentaries in
the interpretation of reality.
I don't consider myself
a journalist.
I'm a filmmaker.
You know, when I went to film
school, I was studying...
non-scripted fiction filmmaking
were my references.
So I approach it from
a different point-of-view,
and maybe it's more aligned with
how Robert thinks about
journalism.
Robert's definition of
journalism is to report on
the side of those who--
on the side of those who suffer.
You know, reporting on the side
of those who suffer.
And I think that is a very clear
subjective point-of-view.
And if you... and he takes
that has his position
and uses it to inform his...
his sort of quote-unquote
impartiality.
You know?
It's obviously tilted to
the side of those who suffer,
and ultimately gets him into
a lot of trouble when he...
when he focuses
on that definition.
And I think that...
But I think-- I hope in my film
that it comes through,
that this definition
and this approach,
no matter who controversial
and how much, you know...
...how to say it,
crap it puts him in,
in terms of being on the other
side of the argument most often,
or the canary in the coal mine,
as I like to say.
He certainly is this sort of
journalist who is an iconoclast.
You know, he's not gonna say
what everyone else is saying
'cause he's gonna question that.
And you look at it, you look at
Douma, the gas attack in Douma,
and that's been
the most recent, I think.
COLIN:
This was Syria.
YUNG:
In Syria, 2018.
Reports, as we outline
in our film, in the film.
You know, mass media was--
mainstream media was reporting
that the gas attack was
perpetrated by
the Syrian government.
And Robert went on
the ground to investigate,
separated himself from
the media bus,
so to speak, and dug around
and came out with
a totally different conclusion,
quite the opposite,
and found that
it was inconclusive.
You know, you can't prove that
there was a gas attack
perpetrated by
the Syrian government,
and to do so would be dangerous.
Because, you know, by doing so
which is what happened,
which is what western
governments jumped on,
the end result being there was--
there ended up being a bombing
perpetrated by western
governments,
and that bombing
blew up a factory
and could've resulted in
civilian deaths.
All around this idea,
similar to to that old idea
of the weapons of
mass destruction, you know.
Like I think that to me--
that really struck home to me.
This idea that wait, let's
hold on, let's look at this,
you know, let's be careful.
The consequences
can be horrendous.
COLIN:
And you were there with him
when he was reporting on
that story.
Any concerns for
your own safety,
or your camera crew,
or even his?
YUNG:
So yeah, you know,
this is a good point,
and the Syria trip was put
together with my camera crew,
and I remained at
a safe place.
So my crew went in,
it was Duraid Munajim,
my cinematographer,
Nelofer Pazira,
my producer, and Robert.
And Duraid, let me just quickly
speak upon his qualities.
I mean, he's a fantastic
cinematographer,
one of these guys who I think
worked in fiction
with the filmmaking team
behind
Zero Dark Thirty
and
Hurt Locker.
He was the second unit
cinematographer on those films,
and so became
someone who was known
as the guy who does
the Middle East films.
I went to school with him
back in Concordia,
and he,
you know,
he's an Iraqi-Canadian
filmmaker
who's not afraid
to go places
and film,
and tell the story.
And he got some great
stuff in Syria,
it was fantastic.
ROBERT FISK:
Here we are in a bit of
frontline road.
Syrian guns are in the hills
around here
firing over our heads to
mountainsides beyond that ridge,
which is where Al-Nusra and all
the opposition armed groups,
Islamists,
are positioned.
I'm just wondering if
they're gonna shoot back,
are we gonna hear more?
(Shell exploding)
That's an explosion.
That's not a gun firing.
COLIN:
So, I actually want to ask you
more about him,
Robert Fisk the man,
because you spent some time
with him in his home,
and it actually kind of
surprised me that he doesn't
really live in a lavish house,
it's like a pretty modest--
Well, you describe it.
I mean, it was pretty modest,
right?
YUNG:
Where he lives in Beirut,
is in a, let's say it's an
original building,
French Colonial perhaps,
building on the Mediterranean,
on the corniche in Beirut.
I don't think it's changed
in over 40 years
since he first moved there.
He rents it,
it's covered by The Independent,
the newspaper
that he writes for.
And it leaks,
and the toilet is one of those
old toilets with the chain
you gotta pull,
and, you know,
he lives a very simplified
kind of existence.
He's a writer, he's a writer who
has his writing room,
and it used to be
typewriters and now--
It used to be,
you know,
all sorts of modes of
communication,
and now it's a laptop,
but back in the day,
and until recently
he did start using the internet,
but you know, he's...
I think he's of
that generation who...
And writes about it,
quite a lot actually,
about, you know,
about having...
Having contact with a newspaper,
having contact with books.
COLIN:
He cuts the newspaper
clippings out.
YUNG:
He's still a guy
that does press...
You know, right.
He collects clippings,
and he has a crazy archive
of paper clippings
organized through theme,
and that's how
he writes his books.
And he knows, he has a
phenomenal kind of recollection,
a sort of photographic memory,
although I'm not sure if it's an
actual photographic memory,
but he's able to sort of go and
find the thing
that he's looking for
that refers to the thing
that he needs
to write about.
He's very good at that,
and I think it's because,
as he says in the film,
the rigors of pursuing a PhD
allowed him to sort of figure
out a method for research
which has lent itself
towards his work
being a sort of
journalist historian.
But he lives very simply,
quite humbly,
very private.
COLIN:
And he's not on Twitter.
YUNG:
No. Gosh, no.
He's very dead-set
against social media.
I think he does think...
The end of...
I don't know.
I'm not gonna put words
in his mouth,
but I do think he thinks
that it's a serious problem,
and that a lot
of what we see now,
and even the,
in media,
is a direct result
of the internet
and he tries to avoid it
at all costs.
And I think he offered me some
wisdom, you know,
as we near the release
of the film,
coming up at the Toronto
International Film Festival,
you know, how to deal
with some of this...
You know,
the criticisms
we may get about the film.
For Robert, it's something
he's dealt with all his life,
and he sort of just
ignores it.
COLIN:
Well, he's been
called everything
from I guess
an anti-Semite
because of his coverage
of Israel
and being
pro-Palestinian,
to being pro-Palestinian.
ROBERT FISK:
I've been pro-Palestinian,
pro-terrorist, pro-Zionist
at one point, I remember.
Pro-isolationist is what the
Palestinians called me
when I spoke about
Christians being killed.
Pro-Catholic, pro-IRA,
pro, I mean...
And after all this,
do you really think I care?
COLIN:
I think Alan Dershowitz
called him "dangerous."
I know he doesn't really care
about any of that stuff,
but I guess I wonder what you
thought of those labels.
YUNG:
Well, you know,
I'll jump in right now
and comment on the idea
that he's pro-Palestinian.
I think, if we go back
to his definition,
reporting on the side
of those who suffer,
then I think his argument
would be
that he's not pro-Palestinian,
he's pro-truth.
So I think he holds himself
true to that.
If he's, you know...
You know, if something
horrible were to happen
and it tilted itself
towards a perspective
through the side of those who
suffer in Israel,
for example,
the Jews in Israel,
then I think he would
take that position.
And so I think that has been his
guiding kind of process,
in his writing.
But yeah, I think someone
of his character,
and his resilience,
is that he doesn't really care
what people think
or call or label him,
he doesn't try to engage
in those battles--
COLIN:
Do you think, though,
it may turn off some people
who will see his writing,
see that he's not,
you know,
gonna take a so-called
balanced approach,
and might just say,
"Well, he's not gonna,
"you know, give both sides
a fair shake,
"so I'm not gonna
listen to this guy."
YUNG:
I think one of the purposes
of the film is
to directly ask the audience,
you know,
to think about
what that idea is
about being balanced
on two sides.
Like he says
in the film,
you know, he wouldn't go
and interview
the Nazis at
a concentration camp,
he would go and talk to the
people who suffered.
And I think he wouldn't give
that kind of time
to the authorities that...
I think another driving
definition for him
is to question authority.
You know, to always remember
that that is
the sort of the importance
of his journalism.
Not that it's meant to change,
as he says,
and quite,
with a sour note,
that his ability as
a journalist
isn't necessarily
to change the world
in the moment
that he's reporting,
but rather, and I think,
which is quite valuable,
is this idea of
keeping a record,
a historic record
of what happens
so that nobody can question
if it did or did not.
And so I think that is what's
important about his work.
To go back,
I think that this problem
we have now today
is this conundrum
about how to engage
with media,
and how we don't have
a sense for--
Or at least I,
even myself, as a filmmaker,
lack in media literacy,
you know.
And I worry about that for my
child, I worry about that.
I think we're at a place now
where you have to
put the cards on the table,
you have to take a position
in terms of how
you're reporting.
Because if you kind of
tow the line,
you end up being in this
sort of echo chamber,
and reporting on these
convenient truths
that may not necessarily
be speaking the truth, you know?
And I think that goes to the
sequence in the film
where we talk about Duma,
and the gas attack in Duma
goes to these,
you know, these moments,
especially around 9/11,
where Robert...
(Laughing)
Maybe the timing
wasn't quite spot-on,
but you know,
the day after 9/11,
he questioned, you know,
why did this happen?
And he, rightfully so,
I think,
was asking, you know,
is anyone stopping
to take a pause and ask,
why did these attacks happen
on September 11th?
And I think,
like he says,
he was one of
the few journalists
who was kind of
questioning that,
but then the result was
Dershowitz coming in
and labelling him
an anti-Semitic.
So I think there's...
People are gonna hate him,
and not everyone's gonna love
him,
but maybe,
as I said earlier,
he's sort of the canary in the
coal mine and that maybe he's...
He's got a place where he can
remind us to say,
"Oh, let's question,
let's think it through.
You know, let's be--
You know, let's look at it
through a different, uh,
a different lens and not,
you know,
take everything at face value.
COLIN:
Do you think of him as like
a straight up journalist
or a crusader?
YUNG:
He would-- He would--
He would really dislike--
I know him so well now that I--
I know him so well now that
I know he-- When he--
When I've asked him
the similar question he just,
he can't handle
the word crusader.
I mean, it has a religious
context to him, for him
and it's, uh, I don't think
he would consider himself
a crusader and as
the more I got to know him,
uh, I think,
I don't think, like,
I don't think his purpose is to,
like he says in the film,
which is, you know,
he's not there to
try to change the world.
At least he's learned,
his longevity, his experience
has taught him that
he's not going to be
that kind of
a romantic journalist
that he thought he could be in
the beginning of his career.
You know, he referenced,
at the very early age he knew
he would become a journalist
because he watched this film
Foreign Correspondent,
Alfred Hitchcock film,
and that,
in that film, you know,
the journalist gets the girl,
and, you know, saves the war,
ends the wars,
you know, blah-blah-blah,
and to him, and this is in
reference to our title, he says,
you know,
"This is not a movie."
I think he's quite
realistic that way.
I think he--
I think he likes writing.
He likes storytelling.
I think he, um,
he has a profound
connection to history,
uh, you know,
that influenced by
his father who,
who just--
and even that connection,
you know?
His father fought
in World War I,
which is so unusual
for someone of his age,
that his father would
be of that generation,
and I think that really struck
him deeply, too, you know?
And informs how
he thinks and writes.
COLIN:
Has he seen the doc?
YUNG:
You know, he has
not seen the film yet,
but by the time this interview
airs he will have seen
the documentary and I can
tell you he's gonna say
what he thinks and he may
even end up writing about it
in a column,
and it may not be, uh,
you know, a glowing
review of the film,
but, um, that's Robert Fisk.
COLIN:
Are you ready for that?
YUNG:
You know, um, any sort of
comment from Robert Fisk,
I think, would be a,
would be a pretty good, uh--
You know, something to say,
"I got a little write-up
by Robert Fisk, but, uh,
but yeah, yeah, he's, um--
I think I'll be, uh--
I'm curious to
hear his reaction.
I think he might think we're
leaning a little too heavily
into a celebratory note,
so to speak,
even though I tried to
really pull back on that,
but I think we had to,
for general audiences,
strike a balance between people
who didn't know him at all
entering the movie
and people who knew of him,
and I-- I'm hoping we sort of
found that right, that right,
uh, that middle ground for, uh,
for, for audiences to engage
with the story of a journalist,
a foreign correspondent.
COLIN:
What-- This is my last question.
What is your ultimate hope
for people to
take away from this film
and from Robert Fisk's
legacy I guess?
YUNG:
Yeah, I think, you know,
the first thing I want
an audience to take away
is-is a sense of questioning.
Questioning, uh, um,
the role of media,
the role of journalism
in today's world, um...
I think I would want
the film to provoke debate.
I want people to sit down
after they see the movie,
go have a drink at the bar,
and, um, just kind of
hash through
a little bit of Douma,
the Douma gas attack, you know?
You know, sort of dig deeper.
I mean, a movie, generally,
it's not the be all end all of,
uh, of someone's
interaction with an idea.
I think it continues on,
and, uh, I think that kind of
provocation is what
makes filmmaking so--
and documentary filmmaking
so, um, you know, so,
uh, inspiring in a way.
It's that, uh, that we're--
We can sit through
an hour and a half
and-and-and come out of it,
not changed, but sort of, like,
"Oh, I want to
dig into that more"
or "I'm gonna go home,
I'm gonna, I'm gonna,
I'm gonna look up, you know,
how to teach my kid about
engaging with
information and news"
or, you know,
"Why did you make a film about
an old white journalist,
you know, what's that about?"
And then, and then maybe to
dig into that a little bit
and see that this film
isn't really about a person.
It's about the world that person
inhabits and how that person,
as a foreign correspondent,
is translating information
for us, for people who
don't live in that world.
That's very important.
We put a lot of power into
the hands of somebody
who's giving us information.
We need to be
able to trust people.
If we don't trust people,
how can we--
How will we be able to decipher
what is happening in today's,
in, you know,
in the news, you know?
And that is why
someone like Robert Fisk,
uh, matters, I think.
I can put my trust in him,
knowing that he may,
regardless of how
controversial his words may be,
at least he's trying
to get at something,
trying to get to
the truth of something,
and that, for him,
it's his truth, um,
and I would say over
anyone else, for example,
even when he covers, you know,
the imminent battle
of Idlib in Syria.
I mean, he was there,
he was seeing it firsthand,
you know?
He was the eye-witness reporter.
So, who're you gonna believe,
you know what I mean?
Uh, and that's why
I think it matters.
COLIN:
Well, you've left us a lot to
think about and I just want to
thank you so much
for coming here today.
YUNG:
Thank you so much, Colin.
Appreciate the conversation.

COLIN:
And that's the podcast.
If you didn't catch
This is Not
a Movie
at TIFF this year,
look for it when it hits
theatres in the Spring.
I promise it
will be worth the wait.
And thanks to Kelly and Jasmine
from Reel Asian International
Film Festival for their help
in setting up this interview.
Remember to leave this
a review on Apple Podcasts
and tell your friends.
It always helps.
We love to know
what you think of course,
so if you have any thoughts
on Robert Fisk or this episode
and you want
to share it with us,
write to us at ondocs@tvo.org
and you can also follow me
on Twitter @ColinEllis81.
Thanks to producers
Chantal Braganza
and Matthew O'Mara,
and production support
coordinators Nikki Ashworth
and Jonathan Halliwell.
Kathy Vey is executive producer
for digital at TVO.
We'll catch you
at the next screening.

Watch: Ep. 2 - In war reporting, Robert Fisk always chooses a side