As an ex-reporter and current day producer, the so-called "controversy" over "Slumdog Millionaire" offends me on so many levels I'm not quite sure where to begin.
Some people claim the movie exploits the abject poverty omnipresent in Mumbai. I wonder if these same critics would have attacked the movie "The Grapes of Wrath" as exploiting the hungry underclass in this country?
Would they also have gone after the memorable "Amores Perros" for selling tickets on the backs of the underbelly of Mexico City? (Full disclosure: My deal is at Fox where I was one of the "Little Miss Sunshine" producers. I also had nothing to do with the making of "Slumdog".)
When I was a cub reporter at Newsweek a long, long time ago, I had an editor who used to always remind me to "consider the source." That's sage advice in journalism and it holds especially true in Hollywood too.
Way back in November, long before people were discussing Slumdog's prospects for awards, I hosted a Q & A session for the Producers Guild following a screening of the film. I grilled the movie's producer Christian Colson for at least 45 minutes about everything from the budget ($13 million ) to the shotmaking techniques utilized in some of the more memorable sequences.
After seeing this innovative film and after speaking with Colson at length about the making of the film, I came away inspired by what the filmmakers had accomplished. It made me want to find my own "Slumdog." For a few days I walked with a little extra bounce in my step. I was proud to be part of an industry that could generate a film that made you laugh and cry and at its heart was actually a traditional and very affecting love story. The movie was made on a shoe-string budget over a comparatively long shooting schedule of 84 days.
What that means in layman's terms is that they did away with the usual creature comforts of fancy trailers (or any trailers at all) and freshly grilled lobster at the catering tent. Everyone in that room could sense this was a passion project filmed for all the right reasons. It was made with love and it had a beautiful message about hope and the durability of the human spirit.
As someone who covered the industry for both Newsweek and the L.A. Times, there is no question in my mind that the Slumdog "controversy" is being fueled by some competitor trying to rain on the parade that director Danny Boyle and his crew and cast are rightfully enjoying.
I have to wonder if the people stirring up this debate have even seen the movie they are commenting on. At this time of year, we as an industry are supposed to honor the finest work of the previous year. It's an intense time and it's a competitive time. But the fight should be waged on merit alone, not some anonymous mud-slinging propaganda that the media swallows hook, line and sinker. To those reporters out there contemplating this non-story, I would once again remind them of that editor's cautionary words: "Consider the source".