Kevin keating was best known as the cinematographer for Harlan County, USA before the Center for Constitutional Rights asked him to do an hour-long informational video about Mayor Giuliani’s antipathy to the First Amendment. That was in 1998. His feature, Giuliani Time, is out this week. Keating spoke to Shana Liebman.
What took so long for this to come out?
The first thought was to have it done in a year, but it quickly expanded into all the other issues: the brutal reduction in welfare, the Brooklyn Museum. We were probably two-thirds of the way through when 9/11 happened.
Why wasn’t it in the Tribeca Film Festival?
It was rejected at Sundance, Woodstock, South by Southwest—by every film festival in the country—and not because of its technical shortcomings. I was shocked. I think it’s because people are afraid of him. Repeatedly I talked to people who were afraid to participate. Giuliani is a character in The Prosecutors, James Stewart’s book about the Justice Department in the eighties, bellowing at other lawyers. One of them was quoted saying, “I’ve never seen a human being act like that.” I call up [one of the lawyers from the book] and he says, “I’d love to talk to you, but I’m scared to death of this guy. He might be president. I work for a firm in Washington. I’ve got a mortgage and two kids in college, and this guy is a vindictive prick.” We got that time after time.
Did you ask Giuliani to be in the film?
After twelve to fifteen letters, I got summoned to [aide] Sunny Mindel’s office. We had a great discussion, but she said it’s a no-go.
Why aren’t you releasing it closer to the election?
What if he drops dead? Or doesn’t announce? The time is right. People’s memories about the cleaning up of New York are misty.
Should Giuliani see it?
I think he should. He has a problem.