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The controversy over Jimmy Carter's book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, is set to be reignited by an upcoming screening of a documentary centered on his book tour.
The film, directed by Jonathan Demme, has been picked up by Sony Pictures Classic for distribution in North America by Participant Productions, the socially-conscious company that backed Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. According to Variety, the documentary will premiere at the Venice International Film Festival later this month and has been titled Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains. It is also rumored to be among the films to be screened at the Toronto Film Festival next month.
In the documentary, Demme follows the ex-president as he promotes his Simon and Schuster publication, which sparked intense criticism from the Jewish world. The ADL took a particularly strong position during the debate, with director Abraham Foxman accusing Carter of "engaging in anti-Semitism."
Carter, who was generally dogged by protests on his tour, argues in the book that "Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East." That perspective, coupled with the use of the inflammatory term "Apartheid" in the title and the discovery of errors and misstatements in the book, kept Carter in the headlines for weeks. It also kept his book on the New York Times bestseller list.
Carter has defended his book and countered in the Los Angeles Times in December 2006 that "in the real worldâ€¦[response] has been overwhelmingly positive."
In early December 2006, Brandeis University invited Carter to visit the university to debate his book with Harvard University legal scholar Alan Dershowitz. He refused, saying,"I don't want to have a conversation even indirectly with Dershowitz. There is no need to for me to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine."
Carter did eventually speak at Brandeis in a session closed to the public. Dershowitz was prohibited from attending, but took the stage for rebuttal afterwards. While the University granted camera access to members of the news media for their broadcasts, it refused Demme's request to film Carter's January 2007 speech for the end of the film, citing logistical and legal considerations.
Demme, an Oscar-winning filmmaker, produced and directed the film for his own company, Clinica Estetico. According to The Boston Globe, Demme has been filming Carter for three months to chart Carter's "efforts to increase debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Demme's documentary credits include Neil Young: Heart of Gold and the Talking Heads concert movie Stop Making Sense. He won an Academy Award for directing The Silence of the Lambs.