There’s a new documentary film out called “The Rise of Jordan Peterson.” But since the film was released late last month, the filmmakers have had a very hard time getting anyone to show it. Today the Stranger reports the cancelations are being driven by complaints about the content and, in some cases, by threats against would-be exhibitors:
About halfway through my conversation with filmmakers Patricia Marcoccia and Maziar Ghaderi, they got two pieces of bad news. First, they found out from their tour manager that a planned screening of their film, The Rise of Jordan Peterson, had just been canceled by a theatre in Toronto.
This was not entirely unexpected. Another venue in Toronto recently canceled a week-long run of the film, as did a theatre in Brooklyn, citing complaints by the staff.
“The people who run these venues are so worried about getting in trouble,” Ghaderi said. “An old professor of mine once told me that artists are supposed to be fearless, but when I’m reading these emails from these gatekeepers, I’m thinking, ‘Man, you people should go work for the government or something.’”
We kept talking, and then, a moment later, Ghaderi received a text message from a pastor outside of Portland. The pastor had agreed to screen the film at his church and had been getting complaints—and threats. He forwarded one of these messages to Ghaderi.
“Fair warning,” it read, “several community organizations are planning to shut down your showing of the Jordan Peterson propaganda film. While many of us aren’t Christian and some even flat-out condemn the religion, we do not want any harm to come to your place of worship or those within. However, we cannot allow fascism to continue to rise and will not tolerate its presence in our city, whether it is on the streets or on the waterfront or in a church. Read some history books, read about eugenics, read about sex and gender and then compare it to Peterson. Pray on it if you must. Do the right thing. As much as we joke about it, we really don’t want to have to bring out the guillotine to fix society.”
I don’t think we have to struggle too hard to figure out which groups in Portland would threaten to bring out the guillotine to “fix society.” Also today, Quillette published a lengthy story about the film and the filmmakers. It turns out they started this project before Peterson became the subject of progressive fury. Because they already knew Peterson personally by the time his critics began lambasting him, they could see the critics didn’t really have a handle on the real Jordan Peterson:
Marcoccia wanted to make a film about Peterson well before he became a public figure. She’d become interested in his work while she was a college student studying psychology at McMaster University back in the early 2000s. “I found his work on the psychology of meaning very impactful,” she explains. “And I knew he was having a big impact on his students over in Toronto, too.” After graduating and shifting her focus to journalism and film, she decided that she wanted to make Peterson the focus of her first independent feature. She approached him about it in 2015.
After learning more about Peterson’s personal life, Marcoccia decided to focus on his friendship with Charles Joseph, an accomplished third-generation Kwakwaka’wakw carver/artist. A year-and-a-half into that project, she awoke one morning to find that Peterson had posted “Professor Against Political Correctness” on YouTube and that all hell had broken loose. “The video was a total surprise to me. I had no idea it was coming,” she says. “I’d been filming conversations about dreams, Charles carving masks and totem poles, and a sacred potlatch ceremony”—Peterson and his family were at the time immersed in a very involved process of being ceremonially inducted into Joseph’s extended family—“and all of a sudden, there was all this conflict and controversy.”
After a few weeks, Marcoccia decided that she needed to change the focus of her film, and follow the rapidly developing story on which, unexpectedly, she had a uniquely privileged perspective. At the time, neither she nor her husband, a multimedia artist who was now working with her on the film, felt particularly happy about this switch. “This wasn’t the ambulance we would have been chasing” had circumstances been different, she explains. “We didn’t feel comfortable dealing with the ‘free speech versus transphobe’ controversy. But we also didn’t see walking away as an option. You need to follow a film where it takes you.”
“There was so much of this culture war stuff that we didn’t understand,” Ghaderi reflects. Personally and professionally immersed in the left-leaning worlds of art, film, and theater, working with his wife on the documentary when everything “suddenly blew up” was “confusing.” Marcoccia and Ghaderi agreed that if they hadn’t known Peterson and his work personally, and had only read about him in the media outlets they normally digested, they would have most likely been swept up in the anti-Peterson sentiment that dominated their milieu. Instead, they became hyper-aware that “there was all this complexity that we couldn’t ignore.”
It sounds like they made an interesting film. Fortunately, the world is no longer dependent upon the feelings of the most sensitive social-justice warrior at each venue. The film is already available for pre-order on iTunes and a Blu-Ray will be released at the end of the month. The author of the Quillette piece concludes by highlighting the left’s hypocrisy:
It’s sickly ironic that a film of such outstanding originality is being shut out of independent and arthouse cinemas, the very cultural institutions that should be most committed to supporting such creative work. It’s also pathetic that “progressives” preoccupied with a fashionable politics of identity can’t bring themselves to care about the hypocrisy of seeking to sabotage a film made by a woman (Marcoccia) and person of color (Ghaderi). No doubt, they’d also prefer to ignore the fact that the original project was to document Peterson’s friendship with an indigenous artist who, among other accomplishments, created a 55-foot high totem pole honoring the survivors of Canada’s residential school system, which forcibly placed First Nations children in shockingly abusive church-run schools.
Here’s the trailer for the film: