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Abramoff ashamed of own film he produced

Ron Brynaert
Published: Tuesday March 28, 2006

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According to a biography of Jack Abramoff crafted by his lawyers in an appeal for leniency, "Hollywood politics" triumphed over his pious attempts to keep offensive language out of an action film he produced in the late eighties, RAW STORY has found.

But left unmentioned in the appeal is any hint that the film was shot in South African-occupied Namibia during apartheid, and may have even been partly funded by the South African military.

Abramoff's memorandum in aid of sentencing (pdf link) is an attempt to fight back against the "caricature" foisted upon him by the media that "has distorted a lifetime of accomplishments beyond recognition."

"As large a figure as he has been painted in the media, he is an even larger figure in matters of family, faith, generosity and remorse," reads the introduction.

All four elements - "family, faith, generosity and remorse" - are on display in Abramoff's account of the making of the anti-communist "Red Scorpion."

As he worked on the movie, Abramoff attests to steadfastly observing the rules of Orthodox Judaism by working only Sunday through Thursday, before returning "each Friday to his wife and son to spend the Sabbath."

Before filming started, according to Abramoff's account, director Joseph Zito made an "unprecedented informal agreement" with him to shy away from "obscenity and profanity," but went back on his word by shooting on Sabbath days, no less, scenes that contained "language that he felt should shame even the most hardened street thug."

But though an "appalled" Abramoff did his best to get the "offending language" stricken from his movie, he lost out to "Hollywood politics," since "the distributor thought changing the film for that reason would be crazy."

In an article written in February for RAW STORY, Danny Schechter wrote that the "idea was to make anti-communist films that could denigrate the anti-apartheid movement." Schechter also wrote that while "for years, Abramoff publicly denied South African financing...the Mail & Guardian quoted one-time apartheid spy Craig Williamson as now admitting that the money came directly from the South African military." (link)

But apartheid isn't the only thing left out of Abramoff's behind-the-scenes story about the making of "Red Scorpion."

According to Abramoff's plea, he "accepted the rabbinic decree that, because there were still vendors to be paid from the production, he should do nothing to impair its commercial viability and must not publicly protest or remove his name."

Last August, the Salon news site reported (registered link) that "a lot of people didn't get paid" for their work on the film.

"The manager of one of the major cast members, who did not want to be named, said that, according to her client, many of the actors and crew were never paid at all," reported Salon's James Verini.

Summing it all up in the conclusion, Abramoff pleads for the shortest sentence possible "in recognition of his extraordinary history of good works for his community and the country."

Excerpts from Abramoff's memorandum in aid of sentencing:

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Upon leaving Citizens for America, Mr. Abramoff worked with his father’s real estate development company and decided to enter the motion picture production field. He helped make anti-communist action movies, such as Red Scorpion, starring Dolph Lundgren, and Red Scorpion II, its HBO released sequel.

Mr. Abramoff loved the experience of making movies, even though he shared the disappointment film critics saw in his final products and grew frustrated over his inability to control the use of inappropriate language in his own films. Indeed, Mr. Abramoff had obtained an unprecedented informal agreement from the director of Red Scorpion that he would not use obscenity or profanity (particularly any use of the name of G-d in vain).

While Mr. Abramoff was on the set from Sunday through Thursday (he would return each Friday to his wife and son to spend the Sabbath), no violation of this pact were filmed. But on the Sabbath, with Mr. Abramoff hundreds of miles from the set, Mr. Abramoff later learned the director filmed language that he felt should shame even the most hardened street thug. When Mr. Abramoff finally had the chance to see the edited version of the film (at its first showing to the distributors, no less!), he was appalled and immediately pressured the director to remove the offending language. Mr. Abramoff lost that battle, outmaneuvered by Hollywood politics, as the distributor thought changing the film for that reason would be crazy.

Mr. Abramoff sought rabbinic advice whether to remove his name from the film and accepted the rabbinic decree that, because there were still vendors to be paid from the production, he should do nothing to impair its commercial viability and must not publicly protest or remove his name. Nevertheless, Mr. Abramoff decided that for future films he would have the director sign an agreement prohibiting the inclusion of offensive language and sexually suggestive scenes. He soon learned that such agreements would not stop the profanity, and would only cause immense frustration for him. Ultimately, Mr. Abramoff came to realize that he was better suited for Washington’s politics than Hollywood’s, and he returned to Washington.

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