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On October 20th, after one week of being on-line, the petition calling on Professor Raymond Carney, of Boston University, to return Mark Rappaport’s materials – tapes, prints, papers and other items – to him, passed one thousand signatures.  Among these were a goodly number of filmmakers and directors, critics, and academics, many of them very well-known and respected in the cinema community.

The following is a sampling of the more than 350 comments left by signatories of this petition:

Matthew Clayfield, Australia:  

Ray Carney thinks he owns certain filmmakers. He does not.

Jan Philipe Carpio, Philippines

I consider Ray Carney’s one of my mentors in filmmaking, art, and life from a distance as I have never met him personally but have been a long time admirer of his work for championing American independent filmmakers like John Cassavetes, Mark Rappaport and Jon Jost.  It was through his work that I came to learn of these artistic voices outside of studio approved blockbusters.  His work has been extremely formative in my work as an artist and filmmaker.  His current actions regarding Mr. Rappaport’s work are appalling and baffling.  I will always admire his work but I cannot and will not condone and support his actions towards Mr. Rappaport.  Professor Carney, please, you are destroying everything you have stood for by doing this.  Please return all of Mr. Rappaport’s work immediately and issue a personal and public apology.  I make this personal appeal to you as an honorary student of yours who still hopes you will do the right thing.

Richard Koszarski, USA:

Unless Prof Carney can produce a lot of serious paperwork, he needs to return this material to its creator without further delay.

Wendy Lidell, USA:

Archivists and distributors exist to serve and support the work of the artists we love and respect.  Carney’s actions do neither and thus attest to the fact that he doesn’t.

Judith Miller, USA:

It is important that filmmakers be able to retain the rights — physical as well as creative — to their materials when no written contract has been made to turn over such rights. Professor Carney, by refusing to return these materials to Mr. Rappaport, is not only in violation of the law, he is in violation of the ethical standards that he, as professor at Boston University, is entrusted with upholding. His actions show that he cannot be considered “the leading scholarly authority on American narrative art film” when he shows no respect for the makers of those films. Professor Carney has not only destroyed his own reputation, but he has also tarnished that of the institution he works for.

Richard T. Jameson, USA:

Someone really should explain to Carney that he doesn’t own filmmakers.

Bernard Eisenschitz, France:

An artist’s right to get his own life’s work back must be recognized, even though he misplaced his trust in a false friend.

Mark Daniels, France:

Mark is the owner of the work he created. Not returning it is theft.

Ingo Petske, Australia:

Such behaviour is absolutely disqualifying for any academic anywhere in the civilized world.

Madhuban Mitra, India:

There can be no earthly reason for any scholar to deny an artist access to his own work, as also stop the work from reaching its potential viewing public.

Michael Piggot, UK:        

It is saddening and disillusioning to see someone in a position to champion the work of an important artist actually get in the way of it. How much time and money has Rappaport lost to this mess?

Emily Breer, USA:

Because I love Mark Rappaport!  and it’s obviously odious to keep his films from him.

Christoph Hochhusler, Germany:

Whatever the (mis-) understanding was in the first place, you can’t separate an artist from his work.

B. Ruby Rich, USA:

This is a crazy situation: of course M.R. should have his work back. What’s happened to Ray? The situation should be resolved immediately.

Kian Bergstrom, USA:

Carney’s actions violate any sense of decency and, more importantly, are an affront to the continuing work of a major contemporary artist.  Rappaport has an overwhelming moral right to his own work, and the interests of all who claim to be invested in cinema as an art form are hindered by Carney’s mercenary and mean-spirited behavior, for they deprive a working filmmaker of a significant portion of his own medium.  Give him back his work!

Heinz Emigholz, Germany:

I do not like academic vampires.

Fraser Orr, Australia:

Ray Carney is the greatest film critic I’ve ever read, and his books have had an incredible impact on my life. But his actions here are indefensible, and truly distressing. I hope he’s able to see the nature of what he’s doing and change his actions for the better.

Jamie O’Brian, Wales, UK:

I have a lot of respect for Carney’s writing on film, and always will, but I can’t defend his behaviour in this situation. He’s had enough time to provide reasons for his actions but as of yet has remained silent. If you care about your integrity or for Rappaport on any level, return the films. There’s no other moral option.

Jeffrey Skoller, USA:

This horrifying story of betrayal further erodes the relationships of trust and mutual enrichment between academic scholars/critics and the creative artists on whom scholars depend.

The petition will remain on-line for further signatures and comments.  This week it will be printed and presented to the President of Boston University, Robert A. Brown. the Provost of BU, Jean Morrison, and to the Dean of the Communications Dept, Tom Fiedler, and to Paul Schneider, Chair of the Department of Film and Television.  They will be asked to bring what pressure to bear they can, institutionally, to get Professor Carney to return Mark Rappaport’s materials to him.   If this does not succeed in securing the return of Rappaport’s property, we will request that the university undertake a full investigation of Carney’s actions with regard to Rappaport and his use of Boston University, institutionally, as a tool in his usurpation of Rappaport’s work.  For example, Professor Carney did a semester course on Rappaport’s work, screening it, and did he, in violation of university policy, use prints without payment for rentals and without the permission of the film’s owner?

Should Professor Carney continue to refuse to return these materials, we will seek to have Professor Carney’s tenure revoked for ethical violations of university regulations, and for the obvious disrepute he is bringing upon the University, as well as any demonstrable illegalities in Carney’s actions.

Failing a total change of stance on the part of Professor Raymond Carney with respect to this matter, I will subsequently publish letters which he wrote to me earlier this year, which demonstrate all too clearly his dishonesty and duplicity in his actions.

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5 Comments

  1. You have so thoroughly crossed the line in this matter I am just beside myself. Have you no sense of decency, sir? Not only are you self-involved at best in this matter, but now you plan to deliver the petition to Carney’s place of work? I wonder if the signers of your petition were aware that delivering their signatures to BU was the next step? I wonder if your actions here – argued against brilliantly by many earlier posters – live up to your work as an artist. I am reminded of DH Lawrence’s thought that many early American literary giants were geniuses for capturing the language of the land in which they lived, but fools otherwise. In the world of right and wrong, your actions here topple anything you are accusing Carney of. No matter where Carney is in all of this – and you continue to operate with only half of the story – you have surpassed him in the ranks of immorality. Your witch hunt is sickening. You have done enough.

    • I think the petition and the items written here on the matter make clear that there was one purpose only – to prompt Ray Carney to return Mark Rappaport’s materials to him. A reading will show that if necessary to get him to do this it required seeking to have his tenure rescinded, that would happen. If you bother to read the comments on the petition you’ll find many think Mr Carney should be in jail, or things like that. I think the signers are quite aware of what is being done. Mr Carney need only return Rappaport’s materials to him and this will cease. The petition, not being a mere exercise in rhetoric, will be delivered to Boston University tomorrow, Friday, Oct 26, with the request that they use their institutional connections with Prof Carney to press him to return Mark’s property, or, if there is “another side of the story” produce a legally valid contractual paper, signed by him and Rappaport, which states that Rappaport did indeed legally trn over ownership to Mr Carney. Absent that he should promptly return Mark’s materials, and if he does not do so, BU should take whatever measures are called for, including stripping Carney of his tenure.

    • Are you fucking kidding? I think he is doing the right thing, is carney who should be put in shame.

  2. Two responses for Kris:

    1) I visited with the BU faculty Friday and delivered the petition. They were already looking into this and asking their lawyers what to do. We’re just providing a sense of urgency to the proceedings and showing that there is a wide base of people who support Mark in his efforts to get his stuff back.

    2) In my experiences as an activist, and in my experiences helping Jon and Mark with this, it has been almost uniformly my experience that if a party is in the wrong, the first tactic re: communicating their side of the issue is silence, followed by denial, followed by an eventual official rationalization. It’s true of the media coverage of OWS, it’s true of NYPD responses to Stop and Frisk, it’s true of the Obama administration’s handling of Bradley Manning, and it’s unfortunately true of Ray Carney’s handling of his taking Mark’s work hostage. Without outside pressure and persistence, any of these parties would surely be happy enough to just pretend these thing didn’t happen or weren’t happening. To suggest that a person who has been repeatedly asked for comment on something as major as this and has not just refused to respond but practically disappeared into the ether is being wronged is absurd.

  3. Also, to correct the article, I only managed to get meetings with Schneider and Fiedler, though I’d tried to get meetings with all four officials named.


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