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Justice & The Generals
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Thirteen/WNET New York interviewer Mendy Johnson contacted the filmmaker of JUSTICE AND THE GENERALS, Gail Pellett, to talk with her about the making of the film. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation. To the right we present a video recording in RealPlayer format.

MENDY JOHNSON: Tell us a little about your background as a filmmaker?

GAIL PELLETT: Well, I started in radio, actually about thirty years ago, and I was producing radio documentaries that became so visual, I think, in their complexity that I began working in film and television. And I worked for National Public Radio, for example, so my work in television followed the general drift in radio [in] which it was concerned with social, and political, cultural, and religious issues, more journalistic kind of television broadcast journalism I guess. Because there are different kinds of documentary filmmakers and I tend to be of journalistic kind -- the genre that I work ... But I also worked with Bill Moyers for thirteen years and periodically I peel away and produce an independent documentary, and this is one of them.

JOHNSON: How did you become interested in this subject matter?

PELLETT: I became interested in this story about the twenty-year saga of the families of the churchwomen to pursue truth and justice in the case of their sisters' murders when I read an article in a religious publication, I think it was back in the summer of 2000. And I had remembered, as so many people do, those images of the churchwomen's bodies being dragged from the first temporary grave that they had been buried in, and it was just seared into my bone marrow somewhere. And so it caught my attention when I read this article that talked about -- that here twenty years later the families were taking generals from El Salvador to court in the United States. And I think what interested me then, immediately was this idea that you could take somebody to court in this country for a crime that was committed somewhere else, in another country. And so this whole idea of the law crossing over borders, human-rights law crossing borders was what initially engaged me. Now, many other things started to, you know, appear out of the photo tray once I began researching, and going after this story, and decided to make a documentary of it. You know, there were other things that loomed large. But, initially it was that idea.

JOHNSON: When did you begin working on this project, and how long did it take to complete?

PELLETT: Well, this documentary is unlike many independent documentaries because I didn't have one, two, three years to develop the proposal, and send it out to funders, and do research, etcetera. I read that article about six weeks before the trial in Florida was going to begin. And I decided to just turn into a whirling dervish, and try to reach out every way I could to figure out how could I raise some money to just get to Florida, to West Palm Beach where the trial was going to take place. And so I was calling individuals, I was putting out, proposals initially to foundations. But, they -- foundations usually take longer to respond. And this, this ticking time clock for the trial was coming up very quickly. And so, I had the great fortune that WNET advanced me some of the money to go to Florida, and cover the trial while I was putting out proposals for other funding, you know, to get the majority of the funding for the documentary. And it took ... all together it took, well, from say, August of 2000 'til October, November of 2001. So, approximately a year and a month or two to produce it.



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To listen to the interview, simply follow the link below. This audio file requires the free Real Player.

Photo of Gail Pellett