The Screenplay-novel Manifestos

Less is more vivid

Thursday, May 04, 2006

TRUTH MARATHON - part five

If you want to see the past installments of "Truth Marathon", click here.

RECAP: After a difficult few days at a new teaching job, Paul has gone to visit his father after work. His father -- genial, unemployed, obsessed -- lives in a rooming house. The two have tea in the kitchen. Then they head upstairs to Paul's father's room where, apparently, his father will tell Paul "something important".


The camera dollies ahead of Paul and his father as they ascend the stairs.

PAULS FATHER: Did you read that story in paper about George on the oil companies?

PAUL: I didnt get a paper today.

PAULS FATHER: Well it was yesterdays paper, actually. It was classic Bush, yessir, classic Dubya. Hes refusing to tax big oil on its windfall, you see. "The Decider" indeed! More like "The Provider" ... [going for the punchline] "The Provider" to Big Business!

PAUL: [not even smiling politely] Hm.

They reach the second floor landing. Pauls father glances at Paul. But Paul looks distant and disengaged. Paul's father frowns.


The two enter.

Inside the room are stacks and stacks of old newspapers and magazines. There are also several filing cabinets the old, beige metal ones that used to be used throughout the offices of the world. And maybe these cabinets were; that is, maybe they have traveled the world. They certainly have a pre-used look to them.

As well, books line a bookshelf that is built into one wall. There are a wide variety of them. Some are serious a modern history of Lebanon by Robert Fisk, a copy of The Pentagon Papers. Others are cheap, whacky paperbacks: UFO books, Armageddon books.

But above all is row after row of books about Pearl Harbor. They seem almost a library unto themselves, and, wedged between them, are a series of fat file folders with labels affixed to their uneven spines. These labels read: "Roosevelt's plans", "Churchill's motives", "Monitor'g of Japan navy", "Codes". Alongside these is a smaller (though still impressive) collection of books about World War Two, the Great Depression, and -- in a jarring jump to the present -- 9/11.

On a desk that once sat in a school-room sits an old computer. It is pathetically out of date. It has a 5 1/4 inch floppy drive and dot matrix printer.

Next to it is a color TV also quite old. And an equally ancient VCR. Beside the VCR are some tapes. All of these have hand-written labels on the labels.

Finally, on the bed is a slant board. This is a kind of exercise board that allows a person to lie on their back at an angle with their feet higher than their head.

s father looks at his computer.

S FATHER: You know anyone whod know how to fix this?

PAUL: Dad, that system doesn
t need fixing. It needs throwing out.

S FATHER: Horse-feathers! Its electronic inside. That stuff never wears out well, not for a lot longer than youd think. Its just the magnates the Bill Gates and the whatnots. They want you to keep buying new computers! Its greedy and its wasteful.

PAUL: Whatever. [Suddenly somewhat impatient, looking at his watch] Is this what you wanted to talk to me about?

S FATHER: No, no! I can write long-hand. In fact, its better that I do. [Leaning close to Paul] Do you realize computers spy on you?

PAUL: No they don

S FATHER: Yes they do. You told me.

PAUL: That
s only if youre hooked up to the internet. And thats maybe.

S FATHER: [triumphantly] Oh just the internet. Sounds pretty certain-maybe-certain to me!

Paul clears his throat.

S FATHER: [realizing hes being a bore] Look, this is good. Youll like this. [He starts looking through his collection of home-taped video-cassettes.]

PAUL: What is it? A bootleg of Three Days of the Condor?

PAULS FATHER: [not getting it] Pardon?

PAUL: Nothing.

Pauls father clicks on the TV and puts a tape into the VCR. Snow.

PAUL: Your TV doesnt look very healthy, either.

PAULS FATHER: Its fine, its fine! Just wait!

An image appears. Then audio. Its an interview for the BBC.

PAUL: Oh, I know this program. Hard Talk.

PAULS FATHER: Yeah, Hard Crap is what I call it most of the time. But this one is good.

They watch the tape. It is of two men in a studio. One is excitable. The other is extremely composed. The latter is the one being interviewed.

PAUL: [sarcastically, looking at the composed interviewee] Whos the live-wire?

PAULS FATHER: [happy to know a secret] You dont know, do you?

PAUL: Should I?

PAULS FATHER: Hes probably had more direct influence on your life than George Bush ever will.

PAUL: Gosh.

PAULS FATHER: [snorts under his breath]

PAUL: So who is he? He looks like he looks Uncle Bruce.

PAULS FATHER: His names Efraim Halevy.

PAUL: Who?

PAULS FATHER: He was the head of Mossad.

PAUL: [only mildly more interested] Oh.

The two, Paul and his dad, watch the two on the TV set, Efraim Halevy and the interviewer, David Jessel.

Jessel: Tell us a bit about any foreknowledge that Mossad might have had of 9/11.

Halevy: Beforehand, we did not know anything about the changed institutions . [Halevy, realizing hes made a slip of the tongue, catches himself. At this point, the TV camera focused on him starts to slowly zoom in] changed situation. We did not know about that.

PAULS FATHER: [stopping video] Did you hear that?!

PAUL: What?

PAULS FATHER: What he said!!!

PAUL: What? That Mossad wasnt involved?

PAULS FATHER: No! About changed institutions!

PAUL: Sorry?

PAULS FATHER: Here. Let me replay it. [The VCR doesnt work correctly] Shit! [He hits it.]

PAUL: Dad, you gotta do something about your physical plant, here.

PAULS FATHER: [glaring at the VCR] Damn technology. It helps no one, you know, over the long run. Progress is illusionary.

PAUL: Okay. Fine. Well, I think Ill go and catch a subway now because my bike is prone to getting flats.

PAULS FATHER: Here! Here! Its working! [Pauls father replays the one segment of video].

PAUL: [at the end of his rope] Thats great. Look, Dad, you dont know how stressed
out I am. It
s a new job, it didnt get off to the greatest start, I still havent eaten. Id just like to head home .

PAULS FATHER: Paul. Son. Look, I know Im imposing on you. I know that. But humor your screwed-up old dad, would you? This matters. This.

PAUL: Its just two big-shots shooting the shit. Ones a journalist playing gotcha, and the others an intelligence weasel. Whats special about it?

PAULS FATHER: Youd call pre-knowledge of 9/11 not special?

PAUL: [whos clearly heard this before] Yeah, Id call it special. But youve got nothing here.

PAUL'S FATHER: The starting point always looks like a nothing!

PAUL: You're entitled to believe what you want. So am I. So what? The two of us could agree till we're blue in the face. That still wouldn't convince anyone else. You need evidence.

PAUL'S FATHER: What our culture needs today is a shift! A shift in attitude! Sure, we have "freedom of the press". Sure! And still, day after day, we swallow the lies we're fed. Look at the historical record! Look at Pearl Harbor and all the lies that surround that!

PAUL: [in the tired voice of someone who's entered an argument he really knows he shouldn't have] Look, Pops ... a) 9/11 and Pearl Harbor are two different things. And b) no one's ever proved that there were lies about Pearl Harbor in the first place...

PAUL'S FATHER: Because of people! Because they're such ... [searches for an original metaphor] sheep!

PAUL: Well, maybe you 'n' I are sheep, too. So let's just focus on being happy sheep, okay?

PAUL'S FATHER: I'm no sheep. I'm a professional journalist.

PAUL: You freelanced, Dad.

PAULS FATHER: Some of the best journalism ever written has been produced by freelancers. Think of I. F. Stone. [Portentously, Pauls dad reaches for a volume in his bookcase that he knows the precise location of] Ive been telling you for ages to read this book. Its a good start on his material.

PAUL: I don't have the time. Im busy, Dad. You dont know how busy.


PAULS FATHER: [stony-faced in an Im-not-hurt-by-your-insensitivity sort of way] Im boring you.

PAUL: [pleading] Youre not boring me. [Confessing] Okay, you are. Im wiped, okay? I gotta get something to eat and some rest.

PAULS FATHER: This matters, Paul. I know what you think of me. I know what everyone thinks. And maybe I spent too much of my life going in too many directions and not really getting anywhere. Too many causes. Too many ideals. And I wasted a lot of time and energy. You and Mom know about that. It took me a long time to realize politics doesnt really matter so much. But there are times when it does.


Pauls fathers speech has a kind of restrained nobility to it. And Pauls father seems, in some happy corner of his soul, to realize this. But just as soon as he does, the old endorphins, the old addictives that once sent him speeding along pointless highways, start up again. He just cant resist going for melodrama.

PAULS FATHER: [his eyes welling up] Theyre destroying the world, son. Theres never been an age quite like this. Global warming, surveillance cameras and software. Computers that record everything you write. Wars fought for Israel.

PAUL: [upset] Dad, they didnt fight that war for Israel!

PAULS FATHER: They did, son, they did! And thats how Mossad wanted it! Who knows whether they were played or wanted to be played. But playing is what happened!

PAUL: Dad, thats why you dont hold down jobs!

PAULS FATHER: [not getting it] What?!

PAUL: [helplessly] You cant talk that way. Its

PAULS FATHER: [with umbrage] What exactly are you saying here? That Im an anti-semite? Really? Is that it, son? Then explain this: how come I married your mother? Huh? What about that?

PAUL: Mom isnt Jewish, dad! Shes a Polish Catholic!

PAULS FATHER: Her grandfather was Jewish.

PAUL: [tired] And her dad wasnt. Weve been through all this before.

PAULS FATHER: Oh, really? Really? Do you realize that according to Nazi race laws her parents would have been shipped off to a camp if theyd found out?

PAUL: Well, they werent.


SFX: The traffic outside.

PAULS FATHER: [quietly] I loved her. I want you to know that.

PAUL: [looking away] Sure.

PAULS FATHER: [grabbing him by the shoulders and forcing Paul to look into his eyes] No, you listen to me son. I loved her with my heart and soul. Never listen to what she says about all that. You remember that, okay? Its not my fault I got sick. You heard what the doctors said.

Paul: I realize that.


PAUL'S FATHER: And there was the accident.

PAUL: [dryly] I don't think that had anything to do with it.

PAUL'S FATHER: [a little pugnaciously] Oh yeah? Really? What do you know about it?

Paul shrugs.

Paul's father walks across the room to the bookcase. He seems lost in thought. Then he turns with and looks at Paul with a strange glint in his eye, as if now -- at this very moment -- he is saying the thing that matters most.

PAUL'S FATHER: No one knows what's happening, son. It's kept under wraps. But it'll all come to no good. You'll see. There's going to be a wave of destruction like nothing the human race has ever witnessed before: oil war, techno-dictatorship, greenhouse crisis ... you name it, it's all going to converge...

PAUL: [nods]

PAUL'S FATHER: [louder] But we can stop them! Can't you see?! We can put together the pieces ... connect the dots!! It's not hopeless if we all just hang together!!

PAUL: [with zero visible emotion] Yeah, I know, it's important. [Beat.] Look, I really gotta go.


Paul quickly exits. His face remains impassive. But then, once the moment hes shut the door behind him, tears well up in his eyes. He controls himself with difficulty.

Then suddenly, he turns and swings his fist at the brick wall next to the door. Only at the last split-second does he restrain himself.

He steps onto the sidewalk and walks away.


Paul, alone, is running laps, trying to wear off his nervous energy and unhappiness. His face is pale, almost as if his skin itself is exhausted.


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