Sunday, 10 July 2022 22:00

Oliver Stone in Quebec City (Part 2)

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Paul Bleau concludes his two-part series on Oliver Stone’s recent visit to the Quebec City Film Festival by reporting on the panel discussion with Rafael Jacocb, Stone, Jim DiEugenio, and himself, rehashing a somewhat contentious interview between Jean François Lépine and Stone, and assessing the aftermath of this historic visit.

see Part 1

The Panel Discussion

That afternoon Oliver, Jim, and I would be part of a panel animated by rising TV star Rafael Jacob in a small, packed venue of some 73 members of academia, assassination buffs, journalists who were there by invitation only.

The atmosphere was electric, friendly, and focused. Many in the audience had been enthralled by Stone’s movies. I believe that one question I asked the audience that helped us gauge their level of knowledge was how many of them had seen the Zapruder Film. Just over 50% raised their hands. This really helped us adjust our explanations in accordance to who was there.

The audience heard compelling evidence that there was a front shot, that Oswald was intel-linked, and that what history books were relating to students (mostly the Lone Nut scenario) was unconscionable. Rafael at first wanted to have all three of us on for fifty minutes and then only Oliver for the second half. He revised himself, the audience was so entertained by what they had heard that he announced that all three of us would be there all the way through.

During the break I had time to chat with Oliver.

Paul: How are you doing Oliver?

Oliver: There is not enough oxygen in the room.

Paul: Jim and I have your back. Have fun, they love you.

Oliver: Thanks.

The main highlight in the second half was the projection of a grainy, three-minute testimonial by Abraham Bolden, the first black secret service agent, who had been hand-picked by Kennedy and had been railroaded into jail for trying to tell the Warren Commission what he had witnessed in terms of suspicious behavior by some members of the Secret Service in and around a planned presidential trip to Chicago—something I had discussed in the documentary.

It took a while for Oliver to understand that this was Mr. Bolden until he thanked Mr. Stone for helping him get a presidential pardon one month earlier. There was an eruption of applause in front of Oliver, whom I was told was misty eyed.

The panel ended with warm applause, handshakes, and photo requests. Rafael told Jim that we should do a road show. I received a number of heartfelt congratulations. Over seventy people who would now have serious doubts when someone would call Oswald the lone assassin of JFK. The onlookers were clearly impressed, including Mr. Jean François Lépine among them.

Back in our lounges:

Oliver: Tell me Paul, who made the Bolden video.

Paul: Len did.

Oliver: Thank you so much, can you send me a copy?

Paul: You bet.

That evening Ken Hall would host us for a special supper at the Château Frontenac. Our goal to celebrate three years of making and promoting the documentary that would help cement the position of conspiracy advocates as measured, logical, and based on a solid foundation of evidence would be met. Everything was first class. We were all content but tired. We needed rest. The next day was our last one, but would be far from the easiest.

June 15

This was the day that would make or break the event. By their count, Oliver and Jim went through some eight interviews that day alone, which seem to have gone rather well according to Jim. However, the organizers were being seriously challenged by some in the media. “In hindsight, given what is raging in Ukraine do you regret hosting a Putin apologist?” was a typical question. Ouch! This was not part of the plan.

In the final analysis, as a friend of mine accurately put it, for many, the event had morphed into a political story instead of being the cultural event it was intended to be. This is what stood out in the final third of a conversation between Mr. Lépine and Mr. Stone: The 600 plus in the audience who had come to learn from one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers instead witnessed a debate about how and why Mr. Stone interviewed dictators, most notably Vladimir Putin.

Before the final event got started, many of us met on the spectacular Le Diamant terrace, where we got to chat, exchange handshakes, take pictures, and enjoy hors-d’oeuvres and refreshments. I got to shake hands with Mr. Bernatchez and wish him good luck in his upcoming career moves and he thanked me for my email message. I also chatted with a dear friend, Lynda Beaulieu, who manages both Le Diamant as well as her famous artist brother Robert Lepage. Of course, our guests would be there, as well as Mr. Lépine, whom I got to meet for the first time.

Jean-François Lépine

I cannot do justice to the distinguished, illustrious career of Lépine. (Click here for details)

Just before the interview, he talked to me about how he faced some pressures from colleagues and fought off some dis-information attempts in so many words. He asked me if I heard his Lagacé interview, where he felt compelled to correct a fellow journalist on air and whether I knew so and so who had dug up dirt on the interviewee. Very nice, well-spoken veteran. He had done his research on Oliver and looked forward to the event.

The Interview

At least in part, it was an interview. The intro was dramatic: Two empty golden colored sofa chairs awaiting the stars with music from a Stone movie in the background: beautiful lighting, 600 audience members feeling suspense. Mr. Lépine first entered the stage under a warm applause. He began by defending the event, the audience, and our guest from the criticism by some in the media. He described a legendary filmmaker in glowing terms. He was supported by a four-minute, vibrating video of Oliver`s career. Oliver arrived on stage to a standing ovation. The chemistry between the two seemed good…at first.

While I applaud the interviewer for having done his homework, I was disappointed in the format.

Let me explain: Two years earlier at our college I had the pleasure of receiving Canada’s all-time greatest adman: Frank Palmer. We organized a panel and used the screening of memorable ads: going through the decades our guest toiled away in and would have Frank analyze the commercials that marked each period, many of them his, while he would give anecdotes and provide students with life lessons. It was a beautiful evening for our college in terms of honoring, entertaining, teaching, and involving the audience.

The film lovers would have loved to hear Oliver comment on scenes from his movies that could have been projected for all to see, discuss challenges he faced, actors he directed, awards he won.

The last one third of the evening turned into a testy debate. Mr. Lépine disagreed with Oliver’s “pandering” to dictators when interviewing them. Mr. Stone answered that there would be no interview if he had used Lépine`s approach. Lépine said, “You know that you could never have made a movie like Platoon in countries run by these dictators.” Stone said that, while it is important to show empathy when producing movies or documentaries, it does not mean we agree with the subject. Lépine asked why he did not make a film about Mandela, to which Stone retorted, “because there are already fifty of those out there.” Quebec City meets Oliver Stone had been politicized.

This was not going as I had hoped: A journalist companion of mine found that the guest was always being cut off, Oliver’s wife left for a while in dismay, and an audience member walked down to admonish Mr. Lépine: “I paid to hear Mr. Stone talk, not you!”

The one thing that resonated most with the audience was when Oliver said, “that the problem right now is that the world does not need more escalation, we need diplomacy and peace initiatives which are sadly sidelined.”

The show ended with strong applause from the audience. Mr. Lépine graciously invited Mr. Stone to have a late dinner at the terrace next door. The organizing team followed. Despite the raucous debate that occurred a few moments earlier, the two septuagenarians had a cordial discussion and left one another on good terms.

I had an opportunity to ask Mr. Lépine at this time what he thought of the JFK assassination. He said that he and his colleagues in journalism school thought the Warren Commission was a joke. Another journalist colleague of his sitting beside us nodded in agreement. Mr. Lépine also asserted that the big problem with journalists today was not partisanship, but laziness!

Rafael then talked to me: “Paul you know that none of this would have happened without you!” Pretty heady stuff…a feeling of triumph and mental fatigue overcame me.

After tooting my own horn and those of the contributors during a Black-Op Radio interview with Len Osanic and Jim DiEugenio just a few days after the departures, my initial appraisal of complete success, was tempered somewhat by other reactions that were coming in and that were not so laudatory, counterbalanced by some staggering viewership metrics. The bag was a mixed one, but mostly favorable.

The Aftermath

The documentary ended its promotional tour on a high note with packed venues, enthusiastic applauses, and a visibility unheard of, emanating from a City of less than 1 Million Francophones. The clipping reports from the PR firm confirm that between the dates of June 13 and 21, excluding social media, 27 million impressions about the event were generated. I repeat: 27 million! From my estimates, if we had included social media, media exposure generated from Quebec City since December (keeping in mind that the press release was sent out in around April and that I was heavily interviewed for months), and still more media coming in. The total impressions may indicate nearly twice that number—the 27 million—as a potential audience. If we consider that articles have between 2.5 and 5 times more impact than paid ads, this number is breathtaking. Indeed, I have received congratulatory emails from all over the province.

The other element that is notable were the number of mainstream media journalists, including Mr. Lépine, who were on the record stating things like: Jim Garrison was vindicated, that there were other inquiries after the Warren Commission that indicated that there was a conspiracy, that the Warren Commission was not believable, that there had been a plot.

On Friday June 16th, Mr. Lépine was interviewed on FM 98.5 in Montreal by Alain Crête about the event, where he stated that “the movie JFK caused the declassification of hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and there were government inquiries subsequent to the Warren Commission that exposed a conspiracy, that there was more than one shooter. (Click here for audio) This, my friends, is historical!

Many other journalists who were not specialized or knowledgeable about the assassination were very open to the possibility of a conspiracy. Those who saw the documentary found it very compelling. The only negative press about the documentary that I was aware of came from journalists who had not seen it and used the same tired labels to try and paint conspiracy theorists as quacks.

In Québec, we can now say that U.S. government inquirers and many in our media agree, at least to some degree, with the probability that some sort of conspiracy occurred in the assassination of JFK. At a minimum they have doubts about the lone nut version. This is a huge victory. Kudos to Oliver Stone, Jim DiEugenio, and Rob Wilson.

Where things did take a negative turn, however, was when a fast-emerging side-story became controversial, sparked by Putin’s ill-thought decision to invade Ukraine. This caused Oliver Stone’s interviews with Putin, which ended some five-years ago, to take a lot of space in the press mid-way through the event and during the last interview. Here I have to temper my opinions by the fact that I have not yet seen the interviews. I will do so soon, in order to form a better opinion.

I have however tried to piece together some of the press coverage that has taken place over time and one can note very different reactions: Press coverage varies tremendously when the interviews were first aired some 5 years ago. U.S. press tends be mixed or negative and foreign press is more positive as far as I can see. Here are two examples of coverage:

Forbes Magazine:

Stone’s interviews simply give voice to the man behind a country where media objectivity is mediocre at best. If we can count on Russia Today to hem and haw about Washington and the perils of fracking, then so can we count on our political media to do the same about Russia.

Stone takes Putin to task at times, saying he looks like a “fox in a hen house,” when he imagines out loud that there might already be a secret battle between the U.S. and Russia in cyberspace. “I believe cyber warfare can lead to a hot war,” says Stone. “Is Russia doing something about it? Come on, Mr. President, lay it on me...”

Putin tells him, “Maybe. For every action...there is a counteraction.”

From the Figaro:

Vladimir Putin exposed in the last episodes

If the first two episodes seem to boil down to long interviews between the two men where the geopolitics of the last seventy years between the United States and Russia is evoked with “a simple observer’s gaze” deplores the New York Times.

Oliver Stone hardens his tone towards the end of the documentary and obtains from the Russian president his position on the thorny issues of the moment: Syria, Crimea...He even reserved for the end of the documentary, a sequence where he asks him about his involvement in the 2016 US election. A feat praised by the press.

Invited this evening from France 3, Oliver Stone will be able to defend himself from all these criticisms. On the other hand, it is not certain that the “mental power” exercised by the head of the Kremlin and the “hysteria” observed in the United States by the director on the American people are strong enough in France to guarantee France 3 a large audience.

Locally, and abroad, I have not seen any negative comments about Oliver Stone coming to Quebec City before the invasion. Furthermore, the Putin interviews were shown on Showtime and advertised for broadcast on March 19, 2022 by TVQC. (Click here for details) Should these stations be vilified?

Here are some other questions we should ponder:

If you were a journalist, would you have refused the opportunity to question Putin? Even if you knew that there would be rules, constraints and a certain decorum affecting your liberties? Oliver Stone once said, “If Vladimir Putin is America’s greatest enemy, then we must at least try to understand him.”

What other current filmmaker would even say something like that? Oliver can do so based on JFK’s Peace Speech, which no president since has ever come close to.

A message from me and Oliver

Hi all,

Just wanted to thank the students, teachers, and other Sarah Lawrence College (SLC) colleagues who participated in this wonderful moment for our City.

Having spoken to the organizers, audience members, the managers of the three packed venues and the Château Frontenac (SLC partner Ken Hall), and guests, I think this was a real shot in the arm for our city and the Film industry.

While our Oscar winning VIP guest has taken positions that not all of us necessarily agree with (unanimity on issues he discusses is impossible), everyone I spoke to, including many members of academia, came away with wonderful memories of moments they will cherish forever and were especially united around Mr. Stone`s cry for diplomacy and peace.

I wanted to especially thank our own Nancie Moreau for her incredible efforts in hosting, guiding, and comforting our beautiful guests. She gained incredible friends and I believe genuine interest in her wonderful book about Tesla. Two of our SLC students/Bloom members, Amélie Caron and Océanne Côté Garand worked impeccably with the organizers in receiving audience members for a panel discussion and deserve our thanks. They really enjoyed the experience, grew their network, and added another feather in their cap.

 Thank you, Ken Hall, Robert Mercure of Destination Québec, Valérie Bissonnette of Vélocité, Martin Genois of the Festival du Cinéma, SLC alumni Geneviève Doré, Rafael Jacob (super animator/interviewer), my daughter Vanessa who was with me every second, my unbelievable financial wizard and SLC friend Martin Brassard who bought 130 tickets and our guests from out west and all their team members.

Looking forward to sharing stories, some public and others behind the scenes.

On that note I wish you all a great summer.

Paul Bleau


Appreciate your note. I did have a good time and a warm welcome from your friends. Too bad about Len, but the people I met there stood out. Thanks to Ken Hall, Valérie and Geneviève, and Martin, who was terrific with me. I don’t think I met the other Martin, but thank him, please. It was a memorable trip.


Last modified on Sunday, 10 July 2022 22:41
Paul Bleau

Paul Bleau holds an MBA from McGill University; he owned and ran a leading marketing communications agency for 25 years, and supervised Canada’s first "denormalization" campaign of the tobacco industry.  Since 2006, he has been professor at St. Lawrence College. His break-through study of how history textbooks cover the JFK assassination and how their authors defend themselves, along with a series of follow-up pieces, are published on this site. He has also been a guest on BlackOp Radio.

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